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In one of my previous posts entitled “Revealing my New Plan to Writing Short Stories”, I gave my readers an assignment to start making a list of recent experiences to jump-start a premise for a short story. I offered to do the same as we start writing our short stories together. My personal goal was to post within two weeks to report my progress and what I’ve learned along the way. So here we are now. In addition, I will share ideas of moving forward, taking the practical next step in our writing journey.
Determining the title of your story is typically one of the last things you consider and is usually not the practical next step this early in our venture. There are special recommendations to consider when choosing your book title. When I was trying to figure this out for my book America, Cats, and Guns, I followed the principles learned which tend to garner higher search ratings. I will discuss these tips in another post during this short writing series of posts as it is very important.
Yet, the reason I bring it up here is that the title for my current story just happened to POP inside my head. Listen up. In my research the past 2 weeks about how to write short stories, I learned writing a series tends to be more profitable. Think about it. How many times have you bought books because they were in a series of events? You’ve built relationships with the characters and want to see how they get out of the next mess they end up in!
At this stage of the process, you will want to be thinking of a title, but don’t let it take any of your purposeful time. I landed my title because I wanted a series and the name that popped in felt right. We’ll see if it sticks by the end of my book. But as promised, this was one step I have so far accomplished.
This is where we start being sneaky. Deep down, we have that fear of sharing the early details of our story thinking someone else might think it’s a good one and they “steal it”. No worries my friends. I’m not going to ask you to share your premise, and I in return, am not going to share mine. However, what the next practical next step is to do is – get it in writing. Have you heard of the old “corkboard” strategy? Yes, it’s fairly outdated, but the idea is the same.
These days we have many more venues for organizing our storyboards. What you need to do is either use index cards, an excel spreadsheet, Google Sheets, Microsoft Word, or an actual writers software such as Scrivener. I am currently using Scrivener and LOVE it! There is a little learning curve with the program, but I love the layout of it.
Whatever your preference of organization, use it consistently. What you are tracking are scene ideas. The beauty of organizing scenes is you don’t have to sit and write straight through. When you have an idea about a scene (and yes, we are thinking in scenes), write it down and save it as a scene number. You will organize these scenes later. We are still in the thought gathering stage. Setting up scenes and character development.
Using Scrivener, I have 5 scenes written. Remember that short stories mean you have to be incredibly concise, descriptive, and touch on the readers’ emotions quickly. There isn’t time to spend 300 words describing the crime scene. You hit the senses, emotions, and danger and just keep going.
I tried making an outline and struggled terribly. I used to just sit and write straight through, but that leaves me with difficulty separating storylines if my plans changed. As you learn, writing is an individual process. Many people thrive on outlines. Not my style. In my research, I found that many successful short story writers choose to write backward. No, not literally, geesh. But they will write the last scene of their story, then write the scene that preceded it, etcetera. I LOVE that idea and moving forward, I’m going to see if that will work for me too. But what about the characters? I know what you’re thinking, I honestly had the plot before I had my characters. Now that we went there, let’s talk about the practical next step of writing our stories, the people we bring to life.
The people running the show. The Antagonist and their sidekicks. The Protagonist and their stories. When is the last time you read a fiction novel? I LOVED the Ready Player One and Ready Player Two series. Reflecting back, both books were loaded with characters! There is no way we can get away with this many characters in a short story. There just isn’t enough time! Or shall I say words? I recently listened to a short story produced exclusively for Amazon’s Audible. It was a good story, but I felt they introduced just a few too many people. I felt there were too many instances of me trying to picture or figure out who was speaking and what role did they place. I listened to another Amazon Audible short story that ultimately had 4 main characters, one who was killed very early on. The story ended up being very easy to follow, extremely clear with imaging, and gripped my attention all the way through. It amazed me how fast I was hooked to the story and how fast it moved. THAT is what I am hoping to achieve.
I encourage you to read or listen to several short stories during this journey as you get a feel of what works and what might not work. This way, we can better attempt to emulate how we want to write.
The practical next step in our story writing journey is character development. Following a character development template is recommended. There are many free online, just do a generic search. I tend to follow the general ideas of name, physical description, clothing – they will most likely wear the same 1 or 2 outfits the entire story. Include things like their behavior, attitude, educational level, likes, and dislikes. Make note of their personal habits – for example – I always bite my bottom lip. That could be a character habit as well. Make note of both their internal and external conflicts. Remember, the main character should have more than one conflict to make them a richer and more relatable persona.
My story has one main female character, she is my protagonist. There is a main male character, her counterpart. There are 2 other “side” characters who add a slight comedic purpose and are distractors. My antagonist is a male, the villain in my story. Using my corkboard on Scrivener, I organized my characters along with all their attributes. Seeing them in this organized system, I can easily alter any characteristics needed. As I introduce them in their scenes, I refer to the corkboard and pull in the descriptors that fit the scene.
Just like before, I promise to check back in to share my progress and hopefully hear about yours. This stage of developing characters and diving into the story will take plenty of time. I’d like to hear what type of writing style you are using. Outline? Writing it all out on Word? Using a writing software, and if so, which one? In the meantime, I’m diving back in and working on my individual scenes. Staring with my last one. Until next check-in – Good luck!
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