Writing the Short Story.

I recently attended a Short Story Writing Workshop run by the Central West Writers’ Centre.  Award winning author, Chris Womersley was our teacher for the day.  His first novel The Low Road won the Ned Kelly Award for crime fiction.  His second novel Bereft was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award, the Australian Society of Literature Gold Medal and won the Indie Award for Best Fiction.  In 2007 one of his short stories won the Josephine Ulrick Literature Prize, so we were in capable hands.

Here are some of Chris’s advice on how to write the short story:-

  • Be a bit of a magpie when it comes to getting ideas.  Stories are great ‘what ifs’.  Let the reader bring their own ideas to the story.
  • You need to make sure your story is for a short story and not a novel.
  • Don’t adhere too much to real life – experiment.
  • Story is conflict.  Expectations are thwarted, change the status quo.  Start story at the time of change – action, background, character.
  • Who is the best person to tell your story?  First person can be more compelling, third person has more scope.  Generally stick to one character.
  • Be ruthless to characters; kill your darlings.
  • Never use language that your character wouldn’t use.  If it’s out of character, lead up to it – set some groundwork or you could lose your reader.
  • Tense and point of view needs to be consistent.
  • Choice of words shouldn’t be random.
  • Sometimes you need to tell the reader certain things, rather than show. It depends upon the story.
  • Consider listening to music that co-incides with the writing you are trying to produce to help set the tone for your story.
  • Have you conveyed your message clearly?
  • Surprise yourself.  If it’s unexpected for you, it will be the same for the reader.
  • Resolution of plot is not the main attraction.

Have you written a short story?  Got any great tips for writing the short story?

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.com

4 thoughts on “Writing the Short Story.

  1. Hi Debbie, been reading your posts but too consumed with life at times to respond as I’d like. Thanks for this one. I get a real buzz out of writing short stories…for kids which adds yet another dimension to their structure. Found Chris’s pointers very benefical especially – surprise yourself. Love surprises myself. The thing I’d add is avoid sub plots and convoluted story themes. Keep it simple and straighforward. Move it along briskly and include a twist (aka surprise) ending that makes em laugh, cry, ponder, or gasp. Thanks again. Dimity

    1. Debbie Johansson 15/05/2012 — 2:36 am

      Hi Dimity. Good to hear from you. 🙂

      I’m glad you liked Chris’ advice. I enjoy surprising myself with my short stories too – mainly the twists in the endings. I agree that things need to be kept simple in a short story; you’ve really got to ‘reel the reader in’ from the very beginning. Short stories need to be tight – less is more, as they say. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Reblogged this on louisajappleby and commented:
    Sharpen your writing skills on a short story or two. Debbie Johansson has some great ideas to inspire you and remember, the low word count means no redundant phrasing, every word needs to earn it’s place in the story.

    1. Debbie Johansson 04/08/2013 — 4:27 am

      Hi Louisa. Thanks for the shout out – it’s much appreciated! Best of luck with your writing projects. 🙂

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