How to Write a Compelling Short Story

Written by A Guest Author | November 10, 2016

Written By Stephanie Norman

Have you ever wondered what makes people so impressed by short stories? There is something magical about the ability of an author to capture so much wisdom in so few words. The sentences are magnetic. The reader may spend less than an hour with the story, but the effect will last for days.

Needless to say, not all short stories have such an effect. Kafka, Hemingway, Nabokov, Lawrence, Asimov, and Salinger – these are only few of the masterful authors that captivated the hearts and minds of millions of readers. When we analyze their work, we notice few features that every great short story should have. These tips will lead you to greatness:

  1. Make it strange

A talented short story author sees the world differently. He knows how to find meaning and depth in the simplest things of our daily lives. Marcel Proust could write a novel for the ray of light that shined through his window and enlightened his dessert on the table. He found meaning in the simplest things and conveyed the philosophy of life through them.

Regardless of the theme you choose, you can always add bits of weirdness into the story. They will make it more compelling and interesting. Don’t cross the limit, though; you don’t want to waste a reader’s time with nonsense.

  1. “Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.” – Kurt Vonnegut

It’s safe to name Vonnegut as the Master of Short Stories. He deserves that title, mainly because he respected his own rule. Every single word in his stories have a purpose. Each sentence tells you important hints that help you understand the character and connect the dots.

Follow the Master’s lead; think about the purpose of every sentence in the story. If you think you could do without a certain phrase, sentence or even paragraph, then get rid of it. If you feel like there are gaps in the story, add more background information.

  1. Real people are your ultimate inspiration

A short story is the perfect literary form to express brutal reality. Make your readers think about the problems of this world. Make them wonder about the purpose of their existence. They should start thinking about the troubles and joys other people are experiencing and they should feel like they understand the world a bit better after reading your piece.

The best way to accomplish such an effect is to make your characters real. Find inspiration from people that surround you. Borrow their manners, appearance, expressions and attributes.

  1. Make it short

Isn’t this the most obvious thing in the world? Yet, it’s a wonder how many authors forget about this rule and bother their readers with several pages. If you realize that you just wrote a story that’s longer than 3500 words, then you should shorten it a bit. Reconsider the opening and make sure every single sentence is important.

There is a name for a really long short story: it’s called a novella and it’s not what your target audience is looking for.

  1. Develop a hero

There should be at least one character in your story the readers will cheer for. He may be a flawed, real person that experiences struggles, but you should also infuse positive features in his characters. The reader should care about the way this character’s destiny develops throughout your short story.

  1. Leave the readers in contemplation

A successful short story should leave lasting impressions. The reader can’t stop thinking about the effects it left in his mind, whether they are cheerful or burdening. You can achieve this effect by adding a surprise twist, such as an unexpected love choice, sudden death, or anything else that fits into your story.

A Short Story Leaves Lasting Memories

A brilliant short story throws the reader into contemplation about right and wrong. He starts redefining his values and wondering about the meaning of everything that surrounds him. Some writers have incredible talent to realize what their readers want. The rest of us have to practice and write.

Bio: Stephanie Norman from Sydney has been a contributing blogger and professional writer for 4 years already. She writes creative content covering writing, self-publishing, and content marketing issues as a freelancer. Also, sometimes she provides editing services at Australian Writings, a company that offers assignment help and assistance for students. You can follow her on Facebook and  Google+.