MY SIX-STEP FORMULA FOR WRITING THE SHORT SHORT THAT EVERYONE WILL WANT TO READ
(Back in 2011 I introduced my 6-Step formula for writing a short short. I thought it would be a good idea to resurrect the formula for those who may have missed it. This formula also works for writing other formats of a story such as short stories and even the novella.)
A short short is a short story that usually contains between 1200 - 1500 words. Experienced writers can spit 1500 before breakfast. It's as easy for them as swiping a credit card.
However, an experienced writer also knows that writing the short short can be more difficult than writing a full length novel. The brevity of the story constricts the wordsmith, depriving him of developing character, plot and setting, all of which he can develop fully in a short story, a novella or a full-length novel. Every line and paragraph of the short short must be significant to carry the story forward with rapidity and terseness.
Like a prize fighter, the author of the short short attempts to score points with each swing of the pen. To accomplish this task, it is vitally important that you plan your short short well, from start to finish, long before you begin a first draft. There is no wiggle room, no chance to elaborate and not a word to waste.
To help with my writing, I developed a six-step formula to guide my pen from beginning to end of the short short. I hope that you will find it useful, as well.
- Plan your story well, dividing it into three parts - beginning, middle and end. Write the end of your story first. Knowing where and how your story is going to wind up will keep the beginning and middle parts in line. This will insure that you do not veer off your story. In the short short you must keep on track.
- When writing the beginning of your story use the Plunge Opening. This means that you must leap straight into the problem that confronts your main character. Now, with the beginning and the end written, the middle of your story will practically write itself.
- Allow the reader an opportunity to bond with your protagonist, be he/she good or bad. Readers want to sympathize with your main character and need to understand the motivation behind the action your main character takes. It is therefore wise to focus your few precious words on characterization rather than on setting.
- Make certain your characters are consistent. Don’t end the story with your good guy suddenly turning bad or the reverse. Never introduce an unknown character who will suddenly come out of the blue to save the day. Readers aren't going to buy it and they will resent you for it.
- Use strong dialogue to move the story along. Don’t tell the reader that your leading lady is angry. Instead, have her scream at someone. It’s a lot more effective.
- Finally, write a story that is worth the read. Give us an ending we’ll remember. Yes, I know, some people say “it’s all about the journey.” However, when it comes to story telling, that statement doesn't ring true. A surprise ending is ideal, and most sought-after short shorts are those with surprise endings - something with a twist. But if you can’t think of a story with a plot twist, make certain the ending has the reader going away with the desire to read your next story, the one after that, the one after that, and so on.