The Extraordinary Art of Writing Short Stories

Tips to help you write extraordinary short stories.

I love dipping into an eclectic mix of short tales. Picking up an anthology or collection of shorts whilst waiting in the car for my kids, or reading while working out on the elliptical with my Kindle app on my phone, delights me and utilises what could be wasted time!

Books containing great short stories...

Books containing great short stories…

There’s an art to a short story, and it takes a well-practised writer to get it right. There’s nothing worse than dipping into a tale, finishing it in a few pages and having no reaction. That meh feeling just doesn’t cut it.

You need to be short, sharp, and succinct, and have enough story to make the tale worth telling.

A short story needs to tell a tale in very few words, it needs to grab you and not let you go, it needs to pull you in, swirl you about and throw you back out again! It needs to elicit a reaction. Very often that reaction will either be a smile, a laugh, or a shock, but it has to be a reaction nonetheless. It’s dreadful to read a short and feel you’re just dipping into someone’s high school level homework. Don’t make short stories ordinary, make them extraordinary!

If you’re writing romance, boy-down-the-road meets girl-up-the-road… Shake it up. Don’t give me four or five pages of boy thinking about girl, meeting unexpectedly, and falling in love right away. Shake it up, turn it around…maybe the boy is blind, maybe she walks by every day, she might like him, but not be confident enough to speak – then one day she trips and knocks into him, he recalls her scent and catches her hand… Make me breathe their attraction; make me feel their confusion and their nerves…let the story catch fire!

If the story’s been done before – and let’s face it, most have – what can you do to change it up, twist it, make it different, make it new and inspiring, turn the cliché upside-down? What’s your USP (Unique Selling Point) or as I like UTP – Unique Telling Point! What’s your style?

I honed my writing skills writing Flash Fiction and I hugely recommend it. You learn a vast amount by reading flash fiction, and then by writing it. Most Flash Fiction prompts are words, photos or music. You’re given a set of rules to follow and you create a piece within a particular number of words. It teaches brevity and that every word counts, editing skills, the importance of content, beginnings and endings, grammar, and basic story-telling to name but a few.

I’ve taken part in a variety of flash fiction, and still do. I delight in both writing to a set prompt, expanding my voices and genres, and sharing my work with those around me. My short flash fiction, shared on my blog, serves as an advert for my novels.  If you like my flash, read my books!

Take a look at these short tales on some of my favourite blogs, see how the stories work, how they elicit a reaction, and you’ll see why you need to read more from these writers! Tinker My Heart – A Jar of Fireflies, Dancing at Whitsun – Cubic Scats, Duty – One More Leaf, The Apothecary’s Art – The Last Krystallos, Uninterrupted – Jo Cannon, and At the Museum – Searching for Ingleside. (Several of these pieces are Flash Fiction contest winners)

A short story collection or being included in a compendium or anthology can be great for an author especially an indie author. It’s a way for readers to get to know your writing, your style, without needing to buy your full length novels. This is also a major reason why getting the short story right is so important. If you write shorts badly, they may never move on to your other writing. Share whatever you want on your blog for free, let readers taste your writing, but only put your best work into a collection. If you’re publishing make it worth the money your reader is spending!

Don’t write ordinary tales, make them extraordinary!

When you’re choosing a collection of tales, don’t just read the reviews, make the most of the preview of the book that Amazon allows you to see…take a look at the writing, see if it’s for you..

Cutthroats and Curses a Pirate Anthology, The Anthology Club

Cutthroats and Curses

If you want to read some amazing collections – try these, tried and tested and brilliant works, and something for everyone. And I’ll stick my neck out and say of you want to read a fantastic short pick up ‘Cutthroats and Curses’ and read Beth Avery’s ‘ Roaring Dan Seavey…’, that’s how short stories should be written!

Once Upon a Time: A Collection of Unexpected Fairytales – SJI Holliday and Anna Meade

Finding  a Voice – Jeffrey Hollar

And the Angels Cried and Other Short Stories – Annette S. Thomson

Once Upon a Time, Finding a Voice, And the Angels Cried, Through the Portal, Anna Meade, SJI Holliday, Annette S Thomson, LaDonna Cole, Read Write Muse,

Once Upon a Time, Finding a Voice, And the Angels Cried, Through the Portal

Cutthroats and Curses: An Anthology of Pirates – Michael Wombat and The Anthology Club

Through the Portal – LaDonna Cole and Read Write Muse

Tales by the Tree, In Creeps the Night, Here be Dragons, Moonbeams and Fairies, JAMes Press, Hannah Steenbock, Rebecka Vigus,

Tales by the Tree, In Creeps the Night, Here be Dragons, Moonbeams and Fairies

Tales by the Tree: A Christmas Collection – J. A. Mes Press

In Creeps the Night: 50 Flash Fiction Horror Tales – J. A. Mes Press

Here Be Dragons – Hannah Steenbock

Of Moonbeams and Fairies – Rebecka Vigus (Childrens Tales)

Darrion, Burn, Moth Girl Versus the Bats, Marissa Ames, Daniel Swensen, Michael Wombat,

Darrion, Burn, Moth Girl Versus the Bats

Darrion – Marissa Ames

Burn – Daniel Swensen

Moth Girl Versus The Bats – Michael Wombat

And if you want to try, and read, some Flash Fiction…click on the sites below or my side bar, check out my Blues Buster stories which you can find a quick link to in my Categories.

Five Sentence FictionBlues BusterVisual DareThree Line ThursdayFlash! FridayHorror Bites

So, do you love short stories? What are your favourites and what makes them special?

Are you a Flash Fictioneer? If you want to know more of my Flash Fiction beginnings read:  Being a Flash Fictioneer (like a writing Musketeer…or something similar…). What’s your favourite site for Flash?

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9 thoughts on “The Extraordinary Art of Writing Short Stories

  1. Aileen

    I’ve only read one of those books (shameful I know). Finding a voice by Jeffrey Hollar contained an excellent mix of stories and the writing was incredibly crisp. Thanks for the great recommendations!

    Reply
  2. Lizzie Koch

    Oops, you’ve reminded me I need to write review for Finding A Voice. There’s definitely an art to writing short stories. I must get back into regular flash fiction writing. Great post with excellent titles I must investigate. x

    Reply
  3. moi

    Good post. Out of the ones you linked I think my favourite was dancing at Whitsun, although all of them were good. I added all the links to amazon to my wishlist as reading these, as well as my own efforts in writing have fired up my enthusiasm.

    Reply

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