Readers asked for a basic short story template. On Fab Freelance Writing Blog, we’ve been talking about writing and self-publishing short fiction.
Writing short stories is an excellent strategy for any writer. Let’s look at some reasons:
- Money — you can sell your short fiction on the Kindle bookstore;
- Confidence. You can build your confidence that as a writer that you can finish and PUBLISH what you write;
- Promotion: you can publish short fiction as a lead-in to your novels, and build a fan-base;
- Fun. If your writing feels stale, writing a quick story can often rekindle your inspiration.
Plotting a Short Story: Keep It Simple
Fiction is about CHANGE. Change is uncomfortable, which is excellent. You want to knock your characters out of their comfort zone, and see what happens.
Basic Story Plot Template: Someone Wants Something, Overcomes Obstacles, and Gets It (or Not)
Here’s an easy step by step template for writing short fiction.
1. Someone — Your Main Character — Wants Something.
He wants to achieve a specific goal. He also has a hidden need. For example, your character, Fred, an accountant, might want a promotion at work. His hidden need is to build his confidence.
Write a page or two so that the reader gets to know and like the character. Are you familiar with the Hero’s Journey (HJ)? You can use various aspects of the Hero’s Journey for your short stories. The Hero is an archetype; using an archetype makes your story powerful, because unconsciously, your reader recognizes himself. We’re all on the Hero’s journey.
Step #1 of the HJ is your character’s Ordinary World.
2. Your Story Starts When Something Changes in Your Character’s Ordinary World.
This change is drastic: it results in changes in your character. In the HJ, this is The Call to Adventure.
In our example, Fred might make a mistake on a big client account. Not only isn’t he getting a promotion — he gets fired. This increases the pressure of his hidden need: it deflates the confidence he has, rather than building confidence.
3. Complications. In the HJ, This Is the Tests, and the Ordeal.
Fred goes through three complications. In a novel, he’d go through many obstacles and complications. In a short story, three are enough. Each complication makes your character’s situation worse, until the final complication, which is the Ordeal in HJ terms.
Brainstorm complications. Write down some “what ifs.”
In Fred’s story, complications could be:
- His landlord tells him to vacate his apartment, because it’s being sold;
- His girlfriend betrays and dumps him;
- His mother comes to visit.
4. The Resurrection.
After the final big complication, your character wins through, just when it seems as if things couldn’t get any worse. Fred not only finds a new girlfriend, he also gets a better job than he had before — and he’s now building real confidence in himself.
Fred also “sees the light”: he understands himself better than he did before. This is the “ephipany” — your character, and by extension the reader — learns something about himself. If you can develop an ephipany, your short story will be very satisfying for the reader.
Short story template # 2
Update: December 8, 2017
I wrote this post way back in 2014. It’s proved to be one of the most popular posts on the blog. So I thought it might be fun to give you another way of handling the template. If you like, this is Short Story Template #2. 🙂
- Start with a character in a BAD situation. Your character MUST do something in response, he can’t just carry on in his ordinary world.
- Set up this bad situation in the first 25% of the short story. Then, once your character has a survival plan, throw two further obstacles at him. Obstacle A derives from the character’s primary flaw, Obstacle B derives from another character who’s out to destroy the main character.
- The Ordeal/ Big Battle/ Confrontation — this occurs at the 85% to 90% point of your short story. Everything has been building up to this… and then win or lose, your story is over.
Have fun with it. 🙂
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