Short Fiction Primer

Readers expect to read short fiction in one sitting. When you write short fiction, think of the story as a dream that shouldn’t be broken in the middle.

And, when you write short fiction, write with integrity. Draw on your own experiences, observations, and imagination as you create your scenes and infiltrate your characters’ heads. Feel what you’re writing rather than judge it. An important part of fiction is conflict, so allow the good and bad to pull at each other. Why? Nobody cares much about fiction unless there’s conflict followed by resolution.

It’s okay to have a happy ending or have the story end “as it should be.” But make sure your short fiction is all about unity (one thing only). More complicated works become novels.

Here are some things you might want to try to improve your short fiction writing.

  • Read literature with an eye to what the writer is doing with his/her writing. Most readers just absorb and enjoy what they read, but you, as a writer, need to go deeper so your own writing grows and gets better.
  • Read genre short stories critically so you understand how the writer stays true to the  genre. Readers expect certain things from romance, mystery, sci-fi, etc. and you don’t want to disappoint your readers.
  • Pick a classic short story and go through it three times. The first time read it as any reader would (for pleasure). The second time read it as if you had written it (and mark up areas you would have done differently). The third time read your version and compare with the original for flow, inconsistencies, flaws, improvements, etc. Be honest about which version has the better potential for reaching the reader’s soul–the classic version or your new one.
  • Place some action in the beginning of your short fiction.
  • Move action through the story.
  • Bring the action back to closure.

Every writer can cite an example of popular fiction that isn’t well written, but people seem to like it. How does that happen? Popular fiction gives readers what they want. The only way you can give your readers what they want  is to research the markets, work constantly, finish your projects, and send them out. Your readers are waiting.

Happy writing!



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