Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Tips for writing short stories: Focus on a single action or event

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As part of the “short” in short stories, it’s important to focus your story on a single action or event in a character’s life. That doesn’t mean you won’t need background (“backfill”) for your story — it simply means making your entire story focus on one action or event and using the background material sparingly if at all.

If you know, for example, that your character happens to be partial to the color green, it may help you understand her better, or at least make her more human in your mind and therefore help you convey her “realness” to readers. In a novel, you might even find a way to make her preference for green into a significant plot twist or foreshadowing. But in a short-story, unless the tale involved something green, you probably wouldn’t even tell or show your readers anything about the character’s love of green.

So, focus entirely on a single circumstance, or even, or point of action when you build your short story. I’ll have more to say about this in a future post.

What I’m planning to do regarding these posts on short stories is to cover a few tips — some probably obvious, some hopefully not so obvious — about the “how-tos” of doing short stories. Then I’m going to offer you a character or two, a situation, an opening sentence, and ask you to write an opening paragraph that you would come up with using those elements to create a short story.

Oh, and of course, you’re welcome to use the results to write your own short story if you wish.
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