To write a good short story, you need immediate impact, meaning your first sentence has to be a killer. You have to create an opening sentence like no other, that grabs the reader’s attention. For example my story “Bugeyes” from Flight of Destiny begins with… Bug-eyes was due a life of toil. Seed begins with Captain Spender’s wife was ovulating. Cast from Hell begins with There it was: I was to be banished from hell.
Your plot is going to be vital as to whether your short story is a success. Deborah Eisenberg states that “the plot of a good story is likely to be a stranger, more volatile and more evanescent sort of thing than the plot of a novel”. You can’t meander with a short story. A short story, can’t evoke the expanse and diversity of life, and takes the reader’s attention towards a more limited aspect. With full novels, the author is forced to wrap things up, whereas the short novelist can afford to be ambiguous. So a novel and short story have different constraints.
With short stories, you face limits, you have create characters, that the reader will immediately identify with. You have to create strong dialogue. An important element in writing for me in writing a great story is to come up with a really nasty evil character, who during the course of the story does the most despicable things. Writers might contrive a cocktails of character flaws (don’t create a one dimensional character) into their characters, to come up with an interesting and memorable deviants. A mindless slasher killing for no obvious reason is not going to engage readers, whereas a murderer with a lot of previous baggage and an air of sophistication will. Writers really need to delve deep to create their deviants. Readers love an evil character, literature is strewn with them. I would say an interesting evil character is often multi-faceted, never straight forward, they themselves are often in a way victims.
Being short story writer, so I am constantly looking out for ideas for new stories. My stories are dark and surreal, so I rely on a supply of dark thoughts flowing through my mind, as well as other sources drawn from real events, read a newspaper, they are usually brimming with ideas for short stories.
Francis H Powell is a writer. His recently published book is Flight of Destiny, a book of 22 short stories.
This article is part of a blogging challenge,