I love reading short stories. There’s something quite gratifying about a sharp, tight tale with a satisfying or clever ending. Although not as widely read as novels, short stories are a lot more prominent than some people may think. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a film adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella (1958). And Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic The Birds was inspired by Daphne Du Maurier’s short story of the same name taken from her anthology The Apple Tree (1952). Oscar Wilde, one of my favourite authors of all time, mainly wrote plays and short stories.
Producing fine, short literature requires great skill and tenacity. Unlike a novel, you only have a few hundred or a few thousand words to create a strong, believable plot with convincing characters and a fulfilling conclusion. Your aim is to engage readers within the first sentence, keep them connected, and not let them down in the last paragraph with a poor or predictable finish. Most of the stories I write have a twist or surprise ending simply because that’s what I like to read, but not all short stories need to take this form. Stories can be humorous, moving, romantic, inspirational or chilling. But, primarily, they must be entertaining.
Personally, the most challenging aspect of short story writing is coming up with new ideas. Magazine editors are always on the lookout for fresh material, and the last thing you want is for your reader to find your story predictable or worn. So when ideas arise I jot them down and work on them later. Ideas are everywhere. A comment someone makes, a newspaper article, a conversation, something I see on T.V. or read on the internet.
Many authors start their careers as short story writers before embarking on novels. I think this is because a short story is less daunting and doesn’t take as long to write, so results can be quick, and it’s a good way to break into the industry. If you’d like to write short stories I’d recommend you join a writer’s group, there are many online. A group will offer advice, critiques and encouragement. Another idea would be to take a short story course to learn the ropes. A qualified teacher will show you how to construct a story and how to approach magazine editors as well as offer you sound critique of your work. But a good book is also invaluable. I’d recommend The Creative Student’s Handbook by Margaret James and Cathie Hartigan.
The joy of the short story is that it can be read and absorbed quickly. These ten minute morsels can be a perfect friend for busy people who are pressed for time, or for people like me, who simply enjoy a tale or two.
Kelly has been published in magazines in the UK, Australia, Norway and Sweden. Her anthology, To Tell A Tale Or Two was published earlier this year. For more information about Kelly, as well as information about where to buy her anthology, visit her website: http://www.kellyflorentia.co.uk
Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.