I love short stories. In fact, I owe a lot to the short story market because it’s where it all started for me – writing short stories for magazines.
There’s something quite gratifying about a sharp, tight tale with a satisfying or clever ending. Sadly, short stories are not as widely read as novels, but they’re a lot more established than some people may think. Did you know that Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a film adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella? Or that Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic film, The Birds, was inspired by Daphne Du Maurier’s short story of the same name? And that Oscar Wilde, one of my favourite authors, mainly wrote plays and short stories? Yes, a lot can be said for the humble short story.
So what makes a short story good?
Producing fine, short literature requires great skill and tenacity. Unlike a novel, you’ve only got a few hundred, or a few thousand words to create a strong, believable plot with convincing characters and a fulfilling conclusion. Your aim is to engage readers within the first sentence, keep them connected throughout the story, and not let them down in the last paragraph with a poor or foreseeable ending. Most of the stories I write have a twist or surprise ending, simply because that’s what I like to read and what I enjoy writing, but not all short stories need to be twisty. Stories can be funny, poignant, moving, romantic, inspirational or chilling. They must hook the reader from the get-go, keep them engrossed or entertained throughout, and deliver a satisfying ending.
Is it true that writing a short story can be harder than writing a novel?
Some authors, even bestselling novelist, have confessed that they find it harder to write a short story than a novel, some have even said they hate writing them. I must admit, writing a short story can be a bit tricky, mainly because of the limited word count, but I don’t think they’re harder to write than novels. The hardest part for me was coming up with original and fresh ideas. However, once you get into the flow, ideas fly into your mind. You can be inspired by so many things – a comment someone makes, a newspaper article you’ve read, an overhead conversation, something you see on television, or on the internet. There’s lots of good material out there! Both for short stories and novels!
Why do so some novelists start with writing short stories?
Many authors, including myself, start their careers as short story writers before embarking on anything longer. I think this is because a short story is less daunting and doesn’t take as long to write, so results and gratification can be quick, and it’s a good way to break into the industry.
Tips on writing short stories
If you like the idea of writing short stories, my advice would be to join a writer’s group. I did and I found their and support and critiques invaluable. There are many online groups if you can’t find a local one. Another idea would be to take a short story course to learn the ropes. A qualified teacher will show you how to construct a story and how to approach magazine editors. They will also offer critique and feedback on anything you submit during the course. I’m a big fan of self-help books and tutorials. I bought several ‘how to’ manuals when I first started writing. One that I highly recommend is The Creative Student’s Handbook by Margaret James and Cathie Hartigan.
My short stories
A few years ago I published my own collection of short stories, To Tell A Tale Or Two.… It started off as 10 but has slowly progressed to 16. What can I say, I’m generous. To my utter astonishment and delight, it reached number 2 in the literary short stories chart on Amazon, and has received some very good reviews. The great new is that it now includes the first five chapters of my second novel, No Way Back, the first in the Audrey Fox series and prequel to Her Secret, both published by Urbane Publications. So, if you fancy a taster, download it now. It’s only 99p in the kindle countdown sale but not for long!
The joy of the short story is that it can be read and absorbed quickly. These ten-minute morsels can be a perfect friend for busy people who are pressed for time, or for people, like me, who sometimes enjoy a tale or two.