Creative writing Series- Writing a Short Story

If you deeply feel like writing a short story and it seems you can’t just seem to be able to bring yourself to it, here are some tips that will help you be better at such writings.

Review all of the information you have about what you’ll like to write about, verify that you can answer the following questions.

When is your short story due?

Is there a requirement for length?

Did your instructor provide any other guidelines for the assignment?

Choosing a topic

Whether you’re starting from scratch or your instructor gave you a starting point—such as a general theme or setting—your first job is to decide what to write about.

Brain Storming

Start by brainstorming. Don’t censor yourself—write down any ideas for your short story that come to mind. If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, consider using something that you know, such as a hobby or a special interest. Pick the idea that most appeals to you as your topic.

Example: Your instructor asks you to write a short story from the perspective of a teenager. You’ve learned a lot about children from your after-school job at a daycare center, so you decide to write about a teenager who is raising a younger sibling by himself.

Define Your Goal

Define the goal of your short story. Every story has a reason for being told.

What is yours?

Example: Your story will illustrate the difficulties that a teenage boy and his younger brother experience in their life without parents.

Write a Plot Summary

Once you’ve come up with a story idea and a goal, it’s time to write a brief plot summary. Include a beginning, middle, and ending, as well as any possible plot twists. Example: You’ve decided to write about a day in the life of a teenager who shoplifts a gold bracelet and intends to sell it to a classmate for enough money to buy his younger brother a baseball glove. On the way out of the department store, the teenager is detained by store security, who calls the police. The police take the teen to the police station.

Identify the Elements

Identify the main elements of your piece. These components may vary depending on the kind of fiction you are writing, but they typically include:

Theme, Settings, Point of view, Characters and the Plot.

Flesh Out the Elements

After you have identified your story’s elements, begin to flesh them out.

Example: Your story portrays the difficulty of two brothers’ lives without parents (theme) by looking at a day in the life of a teenage boy (main character). Also appearing are the teen’s younger brother, the little brother’s Little League coach and teammates, a store security guard, and police officers and personnel at the police station (supporting characters). The action takes place at a baseball diamond, at a department store, and at the police station (setting). The story is narrated by the teen (point of view).

Prepare to Write

Take a few minutes to map the plot sequence of the story. That is, figure out what is going to happen in your story, when it happens, and how it happens. (Hint: In 50 words or less, summarize the action.)

Example: The teen’s little brother needs a baseball glove. The brothers don’t have any money, so the teen decides to steal a mall-store bracelet to sell to a classmate. The teen is caught. The police are called. They punish the teen, but also help him pay for his brother’s glove.

Begin Writing!!!

Now that you’ve laid the foundations for your story, it’s finally time to start writing.

As you write, let your imagination roam freely! Don’t get distracted by spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Right now your job is to have fun and be creative.

Develop the Elements

Pay attention to each of the story’s elements and expand on them as you write.

Example: When you place the teen at the baseball diamond, take time to describe it. Is the diamond part of a park? What sounds can our teen hear at the park? What’s the temperature outside? Set the scene for the reader.

What about your supporting characters? When discussing your supporting characters, give them more than just a name. Let the reader know who these people are. Describe how they dress, talk, or act. Hint at their personalities. Make them real.

What about point of view? Make sure the reader knows who is speaking at any given time.

Rewrite

Refine Your Rough Draft

As any author will tell you, rewriting is one of the most important parts of the creative writing process.

Read your rough draft again with a critical eye, asking yourself the following questions:

Does your story’s opening grab attention?

Did you achieve your original goal?

Have you provided enough detail to give a sense of what’s to come without giving the plot away?

Does your story have an ending, or will your reader be left hanging?

To make your story stronger, don’t be afraid to change a setting, introduce a new character, or even cut characters that don’t play significant roles.

Final Draft

Polish Your Story

You’re almost done!

Run a spell check on your piece. Nothing will detract more from your work than misspelled words.

Carefully read your short story from start to finish, the same way your instructor will. Fix any grammar mistakes or other errors you find.

Once you’re satisfied the story represents your best effort, get a second opinion. Ask a person you trust to read your piece with a critical eye and give you feedback. Make any changes you think necessary.

Read the story one last time to make sure you didn’t introduce any new errors.

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