How to Write a Short Story in 5 Steps

How to Write a Short Story in 5 Steps

Want a quick and dirty way to write a short story? This fast and simple process gets the job done. You can write your story in a few hours, if you like, or on a wet weekend.

This simple process works for short stories in many genres. I write romance fiction with it; my students write erotic romance, mysteries and paranormals. Try it for anything… 🙂

1. Start With an Image, or With a Flawed Character.

You can start with a real image, if you like. Bestselling novelist Tracy Chevalier received her inspiration for her bestseller Girl With a Pearl Earring from Vermeer’s painting. I like starting with an image because a good painting or photograph conveys emotion; you can extrapolate a whole story from that.

Or, you can start with a mental image of a character who’s wonderful, but has a silly hangup (or a more serious one, but your story will need to be longer). She/ he gets over the hangup by the end of the story.

Here’s a romance fiction example. Your heroine’s a little plump, but attractive. Her parents and siblings pressure her to diet, so she’s a sensitive about her weight. This hangup is her flaw. By the end of the story, she’ll have overcome this, and will be a lot more confident.

2. Give Your Characters a Goal.

Every character in your stories needs a goal. Readers like characters who know what they want, and go after it. Staying with our plump heroine, her goal could be to get hired by a PR firm, or to get into medical school if she’s in college. Or just to move away from her horrid family.

You’ll need more than one character. In our little romance, our heroine (we’ll call her Jamie) meets her perfect match, Tom. She’s either dazed by him, or she hates him. Let’s say he runs the PR company for which she wants to work.

3. Create at Least Three Obstacles for Your Character.

We’ve got Jamie, and her flaw, and she’s got a goal. She’s determined to achieve her goal. Her lack of confidence because of her weight is her inner obstacle. Outer obstacles could include: a TV actress for whom Jamie got some free publicity. The actress won’t admit that Jamie got her a story in a magazine, and an interview on a TV show.

A second obstacle: Jamie’s met Tom. She was waitressing at a publicity event, and spilled a drink on him. He recognizes her when she shows up for the interview. However, instead of dismissing her, he seems interested. He asks her to have lunch with him.

And a third obstacle: Jamie’s flustered during the lunch. She’s attracted to Tom, which she knows is wrong. She couldn’t work with him if she’s so attracted to him, could she? Her nemesis the TV actress shows up in the restaurant, and Jamie uses this as an excuse to leave.

If you were writing this story, you’d need at least another couple of obstacles, with a final BIG obstacle. This is the “all is lost” point. After this, Jamie sees sense, and gets what she wants – Tom.

4. Write Your Story FAST.

As soon as you’ve got the basic outline for your story, start writing. Your story will change as you write it. Your basic outline is just a starting point. Keep going to the  end. Write your first drafts FAST.

5. Revise, Edit, Proofread… Publish.

Leave your story for a day or two, then revise it. Once you’ve revised, you can edit it, proofread it, and then publish it…

Try this easy way to write short stories. You’ll be amazed at the stories you create.

Updated: December 28, 2016

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Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.