Short Story Ideas, Advice and Prompts on How to Write Shorts— Anybody with a passion for writing knows that writing shouldn’t be a one-hit-wonder or a case of beginner’s luck. It is a craft practiced over time and a process that is constantly tried and tested. This is especially true when you want to make a career out of writing.
But a burning question for many writers is: What should you write?
Well… A short story is an excellent tool for the budding writer. Shorts are quite flexible to write and offer a fun way to practice and refine your writing skills.
Short stories contain the elements of fiction found in other pieces of literature. But, short stories offer short and swift delivery. (Oh, and by the way, the six major elements of fiction are character, plot, point of view, setting, style, and theme.)
Short Story Example (It might surprise you!)
Look at this short story example:
“For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”
According to Quora this short is often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. It one of the most famous pieces of microfiction of all time. And get this: In six words, there is already context and emotion.
“Baby shoes” implies that a baby was being expected by a couple, but the fact the shoes were never worn implies that the baby never made it.
What can you write with six words? How about with five hundred? Or a thousand? (Think of the short story ideas you can write about with a range of words from six to thousands.)
10 Short Story Ideas
These prompts only need your imagination to grow into a well-written short story.
- The richest person in the world takes a trip to outer space
- A religious artifact gets stolen
- An angel meets the person who cut his wings
- The first day of university ends with a wild surprise
- A human child gets adopted by aliens
- Drinking water runs out
- A young boy struggles with his eyesight
- Prisoners get locked up in a haunted house
- There is no free WiFi
- Everybody discovers the superhero’s identity
The “Short” Writing Advantage
Writing with fewer words is an advantage that you should take. Consider this:
- Write a short story before breakfast.
- Then another one in the bus.
- Then another while waiting for your date.
- So on and so forth.
Ray Bradbury wrote more than 600+ short stories including his acclaimed Fahrenheit 451. He says this about writing:
“Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”
Even More Short Advantages
Short stories consists of fewer words than of a novel but carry as much of an impact. Writing good short stories requires skill. Writers cultivate these skills through practice and perseverance.
The lower word count for short stories is an advantage. As is the expectation to deliver a narrative that’s packed with action and immersion. When your reader “closes the door” on your short story, it is with a sense of completion and satisfaction.
But before you share your short stories to a waiting audience, how do you even start?
How to Write a Short Story
Now. it’s time to explore some advice on how you can go about writing a short story.
Start at the End
Yep, it may sound strange but our advice is to start at the end of your story. Or the closest to the end as possible. Neil Gaiman has dabbled into different types of literature including short stories. His advice is to:
“Imagine your short story as the last chapter of a novel,”~ Neil Gaiman
The resolution of a story is the most exciting section of a novel.
When writing a short story, you skip the drawls of introductions, expositions, and set-ups. Instead, you are looking into the pay-offs and the consequences of the character’s choices. These lead straight to gripping action (whether physical, verbal, or metaphorical).
Writing Tip: Take a moment to brainstorm a list of sort of short story ideas you can you come up with for your next story?
For example, imagine your reader opening the door and witnessing chaos on the other side. Beginning your short story in the middle of the action keeps your reader from shutting that door.
When that chaos is controlled and composed, it becomes an invitation. The action brings questions:
These questions poke into curiosity and interest.
Short Story Writing Tip: Give away enough information that screams something is happening. And, that something else is about to happen.
Imagine that your reader enters your short story at this point.
What do they discover?
More Short Story Writing Advice: Show, Don’t Tell
Yes, “Show, Don’t Tell” is old but valuable advice
Indeed, this advice is a critical foundation of short stories. Given the tight word count of a short, you should do this:
Avoid laying the foundation brick by brick, sentence per sentence.
But, this doesn’t mean ignoring structure all together.
Rather, you get to play with structure when writing shorts. And, when showing and not telling.
Introduce the characters and build the world as you go. Think of a train on its route from point A to B. On the way, the train picks up a variety of passengers that fill it up.
The bottom line: Short stories urge you to be descriptive yet precise.
A great playwright, and short story writer, taunts,
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”Anton Chekhov
Showing places the focus on the development of the plot. It does so without being specific and detailed. So, drop extra words that do not help the count nor the story.
Most of all, showing and not telling immerses you reader in the narrative. By doing so, your readers can draw up their own interpretations and conclusions. Often, they will imagine ones that make for a more interesting experience. (And they will do so even within that short span of reading time.)
Two more tips on showing and not telling are:
- Inject your character’s flaws into their dialogue—“I can’t afford to lose you.”
- Describe the setting as it gets destroyed—“The hologram crushes to dust.”
Yes, showing and not telling is old advice that’s often overlooked. Yet, it remains a critical foundation of short stories. So, with a tight word count for a short, avoid laying the foundation brick by brick, sentence per sentence. Although, this doesn’t mean ignoring structure all together.
Rather, you get to play with the story structure when writing a short story.
You can support a habit of showing not telling with these 15 websites and apps for short story writers brought to you by the online writing resource is medium.com. It is a wonderful place where you can explore how other writers fill up their own trains.
More Short Story Ideas
The bulk of this article was written by Hayley Zelda. She is a writer and marketer at heart. She’s written on all the major writing platforms and worked with a number of self-published authors on marketing books to the YA audience.
Until next time, write on…
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