Rules for My Short Story

So about that short story –

I’ve never been any good at writing short stories (except ghost stories, oddly). I tend to try and pack too much into just a few words. I have a tendency to write very long, complex plots with lots of characterisation and description. All this is fine in a book, but stretches a short story too far.

But – I had to learn, or I won’t sell any and then I won’t get paid. So, lesson one – that plot doesn’t need to be complicated. One twist at most, if you even need a twist. Keep it simple. Arthur Conan Doyle’s shorter short stories tend to have a quite basic plot (the more complicated the plot, such as The Adventure at Wisteria Lodge, the longer the story.)

Lesson two. Cut down the description. Not out, completely, but learn to do it in a few evocative words, not sentences.

Lesson three. Characterisation can come from what someone says as much as my description. Someone can be chatting along, telling everyone what is happening and their reactions, and language and phrases can describe them as much as any story I write about them. Personally, I love dialogue. I love to read it, I love to write it, and a well written passage of speech can tell you as much about a person as pages of characterisation. Again, see Arthur Conan Doyle, who did this excellently, best exemplified in The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.

Lesson four. No one needs to know what happened after the story. If you must, a short line will do. Same with before.

Those are my lessons. They’re strictly for myself, and my own style and genre of stories. They don’t suit all short stories. Some stories are all description, like Katherine Mansfield, some are all characters, like James Joyce. But these are the rules that get a decent short story out of me.

The ” target=”_blank”>House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby

The Women Of Baker Street

Sent from my iPad


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