Guest Blogger: Wyatt Dalton
Short stories are a great way to build publishing credits. But for those of us used to writing long, complex works, it can be a real challenge. So here are some dos and don’ts for epic fantasy writers breaking into the short story market.
Don’t: open with a prologue or other long introduction
Dive right into the action. Hook the reader. Get the story moving right away. The people who want to read short stories don’t need you to know how old the kingdom is, and they don’t need you to tell them about a battle that took place ages ago, in order to enjoy the story.
Do: write a story that moves quickly
Avoid the urge to go into detail about the intricacies of every interaction. Hint at it if you must, but keep the momentum moving forward so you can get to that climax quicker and make the fireworks bigger.
Don’t: start in an unnecessary dream sequence—you don’t have enough time!
Simplicity is key to short stories. If you have too much going on that doesn’t add emotional value, or doesn’t cause the reader to invest in the character, you’re just going to end up with a mess.
Do: start the story with your character doing something
An active character is an interesting character. Interesting characters hook readers. You want to hook the reader as soon as possible, so start your story with an active character.
Don’t: take any extra time to describe every insignificant detail
Again, simplicity is key. The reader isn’t going to care about the way that the breeze made your character’s nose hair tickle. Leave that part out.
Do: focus on your character
You want your readers to fall in love with your character as quickly as possible. That being said, you don’t have much time to work with, so spend a majority of your time creating connections between reader and character.
Don’t: get too ambitious
It’s called a short story for a reason. I know it’s difficult for us epic fantasy writers at times, but your short story will be much more effective if you limit yourself to one or maybe two story arcs, one setting, and one plot line.
Do: be creative with conflict
Every story, no matter how short, needs some sort of conflict. But with short stories you don’t have time to establish an overly complicated problem for your character to work through. Keep things simple. What does your character want? Why can’t they have it?
Don’t: write a short story with multiple parts… That’s cheating
The challenge of short stories, is that they’re short. Don’t ruin that by writing a story with multiple parts. If you feel like you need to write it in multiple parts, what you actually need to do is simplify the story. Limit the scope. Bring it in. Contain it…
Do: contain your story
What I mean by that is this: when you’re writing a short story, nothing else matters outside the scope of the story you’re writing. There could very well be other things going on in the world at the same time, but if it doesn’t make an appearance in the scene, and if it doesn’t affect the scene, forget about it.
Don’t: feel like everything needs to have a lesson behind it
For some reason, long form writers like to weave great cosmic lessons about life, love, and whatever else into their stories. You don’t have to. The beautiful thing about short stories is that they can just be fun. As long as you’re writing is entertaining, you’ve done your job.
Which brings me to my last point…
Do: have fun
When it comes to writing, especially when writing for entertainment, if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it very wrong. Relax a little bit. Play with your writing. HAVE FUN.
Wyatt Dalton a writer, blogger, writing coach, and mentor—but he simply prefers to think of himself a storyteller. He has a passion for stories; and he is driven to help struggling writers work through the issues that plague their writing, and tell their stories. He accomplishes this through his website (survivingthenovel.com), where he provides encouragement, inspiration, and direction to his readers.