Writing a short story can sometimes be more difficult than writing a full novel. Your first tip is to begin the story as close to the end as possible...
Genre Types

How to Write a Captivating Short Story

Writing a short story can sometimes be more difficult than writing a full novel. Your first tip is to begin the story as close to the end as possible...

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a short story is defined as an invented narrative that’s shorter than a novel, deals with a few characters, and often concentrates on the creation of mood rather than plot. A short story can come in varying shapes and sizes:

  • Traditional: 1,500-5000 words
  • Flash Fiction: 500-1,000 words
  • Micro Fiction: 5-350 words

Writing a short story can sometimes be more difficult than writing a full novel. You have to captivate your readers, take them on a journey to a different world, and create character and story depth, all in under 5,000 words. That is why your first tip for writing a short story is that it should begin as close to the climax as possible. 

Here are a few tips for writing a captivating short story:

1. Give the reader at least one character they can root for.

One of the easiest ways to captivate readers is through the development of a character. Develop a protagonist your readers can get invested in. This makes it easy for the reader to be quickly taken into your story’s world.

2. Suggest a backstory, don’t elaborate.

As mentioned before, your short story should start as close to the end as possible. Let your readers build their own background story as their reading progresses. And when in doubt? Leave it out. You only have a limited amount of words to tell your story, make sure you don’t waste any overexplaining. 

3. Write a catchy first paragraph.

The first paragraph of your short story should quickly catch your reader’s attention. Begin with tension and immediacy. Try starting your narrative with something unusual, unexpected, an action, or a conflict. 

Here’s an example:

I heard my neighbor through the wall.

Dry. Nothing sparks the reader’s imagination. 

The neighbor behind us practices scream therapy in his shower almost every day.

This catches the reader’s attention. Who is this guy who goes in his shower every day and screams? Why does he do that? What, exactly, is “scream therapy”? Let’s keep reading…

4. Evoke an emotion.

The most effective short stories are the ones that capture the reader through emotions. What will evoke deep emotions in the reader? Maybe…

  • Love
  • Redemption
  • Justice
  • Freedom
  • Heroic sacrifice
  • Hope

5. Read as many great short stories as you can find.

You learn this genre by familiarizing yourself with the best. Read, evaluate, and analyze the experts, then try to emulate their work. Reading a couple dozen short stories should give you an idea of the right structure and style you should be aiming for. It should also inspire you to try one of your own.

Extra Tips for Shortening Your Story

  • Write just enough to trigger your reader’s mind. Let them come up with the missing pieces with context clues.
  • Eliminate portions that just get your characters from one place to another. The reader doesn’t care how they got there, so you can simply write: “Late that afternoon, Susie met Josh at a coffee shop…”
  • Eliminate portions that are pure description. Instead of wasting word count to describe one of the chilliest mornings of the year, you can layer that bit of sensory detail into the narrative by showing your character covering his face with a scarf against the frosty wind.

More shortening examples (items not bolded should be excluded):

She shrugged her shoulders.

He blinked his eyes.

Susie walked in through the open door and sat down in a chair.

The crowd clapped their hands and stomped their feet.

Do you have a short story worth sharing? Are you an aspiring author? Well, you’re in luck! We are offering THREE  writers the opportunity to be PUBLISHED for FREE just for sharing a short story with us! Learn more about our Christian Writers Awards writing contest by clicking here.

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