Writing Tips, Short Stories

It was a privilege and pleasure to be the judge for a book of short stories being compiled by Nethra Anjanappa of Fablery.com Thanks Nethra for giving me the platform and opportunity to be a part of this process.

Some observations :

I feel (mind you, this is my personal take on the subject) many authors take writing as a low-level entry job. Perhaps this is because any one can become a writer thanks to blogging. You punch in a few keys, rave, rant or sermonize, hit the publish button, and hey and presto, you are a blogger! My appeal to all writers out there is, treat writing as a profession. Just like in any profession one needs to polish up one’s skills in writing too. Join workshops, critique other people’s work, get inputs from established authors. Hone your skills.

When you participate in a competition like the one held by Fablery, study the genre and format that you are writing for. It will help you polish your craft. We got entries that did not fit the genre they were submitted for. Naturally they got rejected.

Any creative work has to appeal to the five senses. Written work should be something that makes you smell the atmosphere, feel the anger, the love the happiness or sorrow of the protagonist. You should be able to visualize the setting. You may be wondering how to deliver all of this in 6000 words or less. Read Stephen King and Roald Dahl. They are masters of the craft.

Short stories are not novels that are condensed. Short stories have their own structure, their own unique way of coming through. Writing dialogues into a novel brings out character traits and nuances. Writing a whole short story in a dialogue makes it tiresome. Then there is a small issue of formatting. May be it has something to do with our national malaise, the “Chalta Hai” attitude. I truly appreciate an author who has taken the trouble to format his or her work properly. To me it means the author is here to stay and will work hard on the craft.

HOW TO WRITE A SHORT STORY

1. Do not have more than 3 characters around which the story revolves.

2. It is easier if one builds the story around one or two sets. Less description of surroundings to work at. A story I loved had the main scenes in a space ship and around Stonehenge. Great sets, great story.

3. Catchy hooks, especially the first sentence always works. I am critiquing a fellow author’s work. Her first line (it is a full length novel) is “How’s Satan?” It had me hooked.

4. A short story is like a tiny canvas. You need to breathe life into it. Conflict is an excellent way of doing it. Have your characters fight, have them differ, have them work against each other. Add suspense. Word of caution though, it is a tiny canvas – so one conflict is enough.

5. A twist is good, ending a story with a twist adds a very satisfactory climax.

6. Use common sense. Do not send drama entries for philosophical genre or love for thriller. Your story may be good, but will get rejected.

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16 thoughts on “Writing Tips, Short Stories

    • :O Was that your story? Nethra sent me stories without the author’s name attached. I judged stories by their merit, not by the name of the person, which was a good thing. I loved the geeky boy and his trick with the aliens. And Stonehenge was so apt! 😀

      • Thanks Ritu. Glad you liked it. Of course it is awkward to thank a judge for selecting your entry as that makes it sound like a favor which implies some kind of favoritism. Good to know stories were given without prejudicing judge about identity of author.

      • Yes, I was sent stories as an attachment in a mail, without author’s name. I think Nethra even re-formatted the stories 😛 She takes her work very seriously

  1. Such simple yet brilliant tips! Thank you.
    I seem to live in this silly bubble where I have no idea about all these writing contests etc. I think I need to pursue this more diligently.

    • You must. Indian writing needs your unique brand of satire. We have way too many campus romances and such like stuff floating around

    • My Naani was a story teller par excellence, and most of what I learnt was sitting at her feet listening to Ramayan, Mahabharat and Panchatantra lore

  2. This is such a useful post…very practical tips!! I’m still too much of a beginner to try and write stories but will definitely come back to this post later!

    • I am glad you find this post useful. I have written other posts with writing tips. Please read them too. I hope they help you

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