The short story is under-rated. When it’s good, it’s really good. A short story can pull you into its world within the first few lines, thrust you through intense drama and then surprise you at the end.
Examples of some hit short stories include Stephen King’s, The Body’ (Stand by Me) and 1408, both of which were made into hugely successful movies, and Edgar Allen Poe’s, The Pit and the Pendulum.
These days everything seems to want to be long. It’s as if some writers are in competition with each other, trying to see who can write the longest manuscript. But bigger doesn’t always mean better.
As author Mark Twain once famously wrote to his friend, ‘I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.’
In many ways, writing a short story is harder than writing a novel. There isn’t the opportunity to hope the reader falls in love with the characters within a few chapters. Instead, the character must be big enough to be believed in and adored within a few paragraphs. The story needs to have a plot and the characters need to have a past, but this information needs to be filtered in and not simply dumped in one big heap.
Writing erotic short stories is sometimes even harder than writing non-erotic stories. Of course, the sex is important. It has to be smoking hot and it needs to happen within a few pages. However, this doesn’t mean that the story itself should be lost, or that the characters have any less depth or background.
Generally my short stories start with a situation: a woman gets into difficulties while out for a swim in a rough ocean, a man returns to his parents home to find the girl next door is no longer a little girl, a business man is accosted by a hot air hostess while on a long haul flight. Once I’ve got the situation sorted out, then the characters start to build in my mind. I ask myself who they are, what are their likes and dislikes—their favourite foods and music—how do they like to dress? Then I start to look into their past. What has happened in their past to get them into their present situation?
I like to end my stories with a happy-ever-after or a happy-for-now ending, but my favourite type of ending is a twist, something even I didn’t see coming.
The great thing about a short story is that it has such immediate gratification, both for the writer and the reader. There isn’t the six months writing the first draft, followed by another six months of revisions, then another six months of submitting before you even hear something. Writing short stories are fun, and getting the acceptances are even better.
So get writing everyone. Craft your short stories with the love you give your novels, but remember if less has ever been more, it is certainly true in a short!