If you want to hone your skills in writing novels or other forms of long fiction, writing short stories is a perfect way to start.


Short stories are a smaller piece of the pie that will be easier to swallow. Condensing a story into 3000-5000 words will reveal many loopholes you will likely face when writing a novel or lengthy fiction.

Imagine finding knotty plotlines, thousand clichés, or a million filler words in a short story; think of how profound these errors will be in long fiction. Writing a short story is about a story well told in a concise manner.

If you look around, there are story ideas everywhere; you can learn to identify a good story idea and write it briefly – that way, you are building up your skills and mastering the element of storytelling.

Once you keep at it, you will soon become a good fiction writer and possibly start writing your novel. If you are still trying to get a grasp on how to write short stories, here are some helpful ten tips:

1. Begin as close to the end as possible: Introduce the story’s plot as soon as possible. This will help the reader decide if to proceed with reading the story or not. Polish your opening lines and paragraphs to ensure that your readers’ interests are drawn into the story immediately and sustained till the end. To hook the reader’s attention right away, bypass the ‘before’, ‘the related’, as well as the vaguely interesting details of the character’s life and go straight to the meat of the story.

2. Keep up with the pace: Pace is vital in short fiction. The pace usually increases as the protagonist approaches the final conflict. Because short fiction begins close to the last conflict, it has to hit the ground running and shoot the reader straight into the action from the first page.

3. Trim down the number of characters: Developing a large number of characters is quite difficult for short fiction, and it also becomes very difficult for the reader to keep track of them.

Normally, a short fiction needs basically three characters, i.e. the protagonist, the deuteragonist, and the tritagonist. Provide someone for your reader to love and cheer on, someone to hate, and sometimes, someone who advances the character arc for either the protagonist or deuteragonist.  

4. Give your reader a character to root for: Just like the characters in a novel, a short fiction needs a hero – someone your reader will love and feel a connection with. Give your lead character a passion and a determination that will push them out of their comfort zone. Give your character a weakness that your reader can relate with. Look at your character’s psyche and make them real and more humane. To learn more about how to create a compelling character, check out  How To Create The Perfect Villain For Your Story.

5. Create conflict: As a rule, every short fiction must have a single point of conflict. A good dose of tension should be infused into the conflict to keep your readers engaged. Your lead characters should have a revelation, dilemma, or experience a bad omen in your short fiction to make your story attention-grabbing.

6. Appeal to the five senses: Do not confine yourself to only the visual experience of your story. Let your readers touch, smell, taste, and hear your story. Let your readers explore the full breadth of your world as if they share it with you. For instance:

The smell of bread from the bakery woke him from his sleep

7. Suggest a backstory but make it brief: You have limited time to script your character’s backstory but work it out in your head so it can guide you in deciding your character’s motivation as you write. In addition, it will help you point out the reasons for their actions and goals in the story.

8. Use dialogue to bring your story to life: Good dialogue makes your characters lively, bringing your story to life. When assigning characters to a scene, give them something to do; they can cook or take a walk but use dialogue to enhance your story and set the conflict. Do not invest too much time setting up scenes because you do not have the luxury of an extended plot.

9. Edit till you feel bad: After writing good fiction, you just have to trim it to make it as concise as possible. But ensure you do not remove the core of the story. In editing your short fiction story, you can use the following as a guide:

  • Eliminate transitory scenes and get straight to the nitty-gritty of the story
  • Delete repetitive words
  • Combine characters if possible
  • Remove unnecessary adverbs and adjectives
  • Ensure all sentences count

I know as a fiction writer with many scenes and amazing characters running through your head, it is difficult to eliminate them from your story. But because the conventional rule for short fiction is to keep it short and simple, endeavour to do so as much as you can. To take the burden of writing your fiction stories off you, check here.

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