Writing Tips by Gary Speer

Tips for writers, musing about writing and life

Tips for writing short stories — Focus on a single character

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Jill is 21 years old, just over 5′ 3″ tall, 130 pounds, short blond hair, blue eyes, lopsided smile which she compensates for by leaning her head slightly to the right when she smiles. It’s a pretty smile, made even more charming by a very slight but noticeable gap in her two front teeth. She was born with a club foot condition on her right foot, and is very self-conscious about the limp it gives her and the harassment she went through when she was a child. One week previously, she was brutally dumped by Andrew, a 23-year-old she was certain she would be marrying. He was extremely cruel and let her know that he’d been intimate with Jill’s best friend for the six months or so before the dumping.

Think you could take that information and write a short story with Jill as the central character? Would you make mention of Andrew? How about Jill’s nameless best friend?

What you have here is a character. Or rather, the beginnings of a character. You know something about how she looks and some of the circumstances which have shaped her life — but very little else. In order to write a short story with the focus on Jill, you really need to know her better — but you might not even use all of the information you have when you write the story. Much of what you would do has to do with the last post regarding short stories: You need to have a single incident or event happening to Jill or involving Jill in order to put together a story.

You also need a “hook,” an opening that captures your readers, pulling them into the story from the first word and, hopefully, making them care enough to continue reading.

So coming up, before we put all these little exercises in short story writing together, we’re going to think a little bit about hooks — what they are and how to find them.
[tags]short story writing tips, creating characters, writing tips at garyspeer.com[/tags]

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