Writing Short Stories
The Black Cat, Edgar Allen Poe; The Veldt, Ray Bradbury; The Monkey’s Paw, W. W. Jacobs.
What do all these titles have to do with each other?
They are all short stories for one.
They are also dark tales, discussing morals, horrors, the dark recesses of one’s mind, the things people only discuss in the light of day when the monsters recede to the shadows.
The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant; Scarlet Ibis, James Hurst; The Gift of the Maji, O. Henry.
These are tales of love and loss, the heartbreak that falls when you love something so much you give something else up to keep it or lose it either way.
There are other short stories that delve into the whole menagerie of human emotions—joy, rage, embarrassment, etc.—but none command us the way these do, pull at our emotions in such gut-wrenching apprehension.
They are the paramount of writing. Examples of what we all strive for.
Some people find writing short stories easy, and then there are the novelists who can’t. You would think it would be so easier to write to write a short story than a novel, right? It’s less than ten thousand words when finished.
But that’s exactly what makes a short story so hard to write for those used to writing full-length, 50K+ novels. You have to be able to knock out a quick beginning, blow people away with the action-packed middle, and wrap it all in a neat little bow at the ending. Short stories leave no room for dilly-dalliance. No mush. No filler. None of what you see here with these past couple of sentences.
Because every sentence has to count. Every sentence has to build your characters, your setting, your plot to keep your story going. Every sentence has to build upon the last one to keep your story flowing.
That being said, it is much easier to keep a linier progression in a short story because you tend to have fewer characters than you do in a novel. You only follow one or two characters in a short story usually, and the most I’ve ever seen in a story before has been five or six, and that was a longer piece, just under ten thousand words.
Short stories also tend to have shorter, less complicated plots. The motivations and decisions of characters follow a yellow brick road to the city – or wherever you intend to lead them be it a city, a new world, a grassy plain, or even the furthest contours of their own mind.
While short stories may seem easy to those who usually write them and difficult to those who usually write novels, the end result remains rewarding beyond compare. If you can pull it off, you can join the ranks of the masters, filling power with your words and drawing emotions from your readers they may not even understand themselves.
Skye Hegyes was born Skye Hoffman in Heidelberg, Germany while her parents were stationed overseas. In 2010, she graduated with her Associates in Applied Science in Lasers and Photonics with a Certificate in Electronics. She married her high school sweetheart January 2013 and currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two girls, two birds and a house full of dragons and wolves. When not working or writing, Skye spends her free time wrestling children or failing miserably at video games – mainly Borderlands 2. Check out her site at http://www.thedragonpedestal.wordpress.com/.