Writing Small

Stories have several aspects to them that make things interesting:

  1. The plot — what’s actually happening; the action. In a novel, there may be more than one plot (designated as A plot, B plot, etc.)
  2. The themes — these are the wider messages of the piece. They have big implications: man vs. nature, greed doesn’t pay, etc.
  3. The characters — these are the people in the story. Generally you will have one or two main characters and maybe up to 8 point of view characters in a third-person ensemble piece.
  4. The setting — people want to know where something happens and what it looks like.
When I write novels, I seem to start with character and plot first. Like “who is this person and what have they gotten themselves into?” Inspiration comes from that kernel of the story and spreads out from there as I’m writing.

Writing short stories, on the other hand, feels strange — all the parts of the story are there, but they’re a lot smaller, with one sentence often carrying the seed to all the parts: For example, “A woman hallucinates about the end of the world — or does she see visions?” With that idea/character/plot, I proceed with the story. 

Short stories are harder for me because of motivation. I can’t dwell in a short story for months at a time like I can novels, so it doesn’t tempt me as much. I’m with the characters and the plot only for a short time, and I have to make the best of my time. 


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