Tag Archives: outline

Author Tip: Is Short Story Writing Something You Should Do?

Why Short Stories

You may not have considered short story writing before, but here are some reasons why you should. This article will also tell you how to go about crafting a short story.

Short stories are for everyone. They are fun and easy to read as well as easy to write. Short stories can be read in one or two sittings, they grip the reader’s attention and don’t let go until the end. They are popular. Remember all of those story ideas that just weren’t developed enough for that novel? These are perfect little critters to get you started writing short stories.

Maybe you are a new author just starting out trying to finish up that first great book. Or maybe you’re an experienced author working on a sequel or at best trying to dream one up. As a writer you need to keep busy and stay focused. Writing is a business, unless you truly believe you’ve only have just that one great one in you, you should be working on ways to expand your business of writing. Here are some reasons you should consider short story writing.

  • You will add more books to your brand.
  • You will improve your exposure.
  • You can write them fast.
  • You will improve your skills as a writer.
  • You will publish more often and have more books out there for consumers.
  • You have the potential to reach more people and make more money.
  • You will experience satisfaction from completing new works.

What Is Short Story Writing All About

What is a Short Story

A short story can be from 1500 words to 30,000.

JK-Rowlings-Phoenix-Plot-Outline

JK Rowling’s Phoenix Plot Outline

How to Develop a Short Story

First, you start with your idea. Now you take the idea and map it out with an outline. Don’t be too serious at first, let the idea guide you.

You develop your short story the same way you do a traditional manuscript. Flesh out your idea with an outline. Start by separating your idea into three acts, the beginning, middle, and end. Each act has a beginning, middle and end as well. These can be chapters. And each chapter has a beginning and middle and end. These can be scenes. By writing each chapter as it unfolds like the flow of a book, you have the power to keep your story strong and your readers engaged.

Story Outline

If you have trouble setting up your outline, the steps below are ones that I refer to and find helpful.

The First Act:

  1. The hook: the first page in the first chapter catches your reader’s attention and convinces them to read on.
  2. The inciting event: the first event that befalls in your story. This is what kicks everything off. What event starts the ball rolling in your stories plot?
  3. The key event: this is what drags your protagonist into the plot. Your character has to be pulled into the mess. This is where your character becomes officially engaged in your story.
  4. The first plot point: marks the end of the first act and the beginning of the second. This is where everything changes for your character. The first act sets up your characters ‘normal’ world and introduces the important characters, the settings, and describes the stakes. The first plot point should rock that normal world. Everything changes and your protagonist will be forced to start reaching to the new status quo.

The Second Act:

  1. The first half of the second act: Your character is going to spend the first half of the second half of the book in reaction mode. For the next quarter of the book your protagonist will be fighting to keep their head above the water.
  2. The midpoint: Your stories second major plot point. This is where everything changes again. But now your protagonist is prepared due to the last shake-up and is ready to start taking action rather than just reacting. This belongs smack in the middle of your story.
  3. The second half of the second act: After the midpoint your character is going to start going on the offensive. They are no longer willing to let the antagonist simply bring the fight to them. They will start implementing their own plans and throwing off their insecurities. This continues to three-quarters of the way through the book and the beginning of the third act.

The Third Act:

  1. The third plot point: this is your final major plot point that changes everything. Whatever happens here is going to force your character to a low place. They will have to analyze their actions and motivations and get down to the core of their own personal character arch. This is where they will start to identify their own destructive or ineffective mindsets and start rejecting the personal traits that have held them back up until now. Begins at the 75% mark.
  2. The climax: this is what it’s all about. Your climax is where your story finally gets down to business. This is the point of the whole story. This is where the conflict must finally be resolved. Although events will be heating up all the way through the third act, the Climax Proper won’t begin until around the 90% mark. The climactic moment itself won’t hit until the very end, perhaps a scene or two from the end of the book.
  3. The resolution: caps your story with finality. This important scene is the exhale to your climax’s inhale. Here you give readers the opportunity to see how your character will react to the events of the climax. How are they a different person than they were in the beginning? How has the world changed around them? How does their future look from here?

 

How Short Stories Can Boost Your Writing Career from the Creative Penn

Get into bookstores

Write short stories and publish them with companies who are already producing titles that you can find in bookstores. There are plenty of short story markets that are available at Barnes and Noble. To find them, simply go down to your local shop and ask about them. The assistant will happily direct you toward their magazine rack or anthologies.

Expand your presence on retail sites

Now that bookstores are digital, retail space is infinite. So how do you stand out in an infinite bookstore? By taking up the largest percentage of that bookstore as possible. The more room you take up, the more likely someone is to stumble onto your work.

Short stories can help fill out your presence on retailer websites. While a novel can take upwards of a year to publish from start to finish, short stories can be written, edited, and finished in a much shorter time frame; and with a smaller budget.

By publishing short stories alongside your longer work, you expand your presence on a retailer website, and thus come up more often in searches and on featured pages. This extra traffic will increase sales of your other titles

Fill in the gaps between novel releases

Novels are hard work. It can take months or sometimes years to get them right. The publishing process might have been majorly simplified by modern tools, but the writing process is still just as arduous as ever.

Short stories, by comparison, are simpler. Not easier, because writing a great short story is still a major challenge. But the process is much simpler. Writing short stories is similar to writing a single scene (or a few scenes) for a novel. Except, you don’t have to pay attention to an over-arching storyline.

Publishing short fiction while working on a novel is a great method to keep your audience reading your stuff and gives you something to promote while you work on your big project.

Experiment with new genres.

Short stories are a smaller commitment than a novel. You can write a short story in a new genre in a weekend and file it away if it doesn’t work. If you put the time in required to write a novel in a new genre, you might feel obligated to then publish it and put your full power behind it. That is a huge risk and most authors simply avoid it.

The risk involved with writing and publishing shorts is much lower. It is a medium that is open to experimentation. I find that a lot of writers are pigeon-holed into the genre they write and feel that if they wrote in other genres, they won’t find success. That is simply not true.

If you’ve never explored other genres and other mediums, you don’t know what will work for you. Especially if you haven’t found the success you’ve been looking for, experimentation with short stories is a great way to figure out what your readers want and to then follow it up with a novel.

Expand your universe.

In addition to all of the previously mentioned benefits to writing and publishing short fiction, the most interesting to me is to use short fiction to expand a fictional universe that you’ve already created.

I’m sure there have been tons of scenes that you’ve had to cut because they just didn’t work in your novel. Why not flesh those scenes out as short stories and put them up as companion pieces? Your readers want to know more about your characters. They already love them (or they should, right?). You can skip a lot of the backstory and reward your true fans with extra scenes that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to get.

An astonishingly small number of writers actually do this, less than 1%. You’re working hard to write your stories. Don’t just trash every scene that doesn’t fit. Re-purpose it as a supplemental short. Or write that scene that you’ve always wanted to write as a short and give your readers an extra taste of something different. Who knows, it might catch on and be the influence for you to write a new novel with a market-proven hook.

Short stories are a struggling form of writing when compared to novels. But they don’t have to be. Writers who approach writing short stories from a smarter perspective, one that uses insights from marketing and experience in the industry, can revive the short story. It happens one short at a time.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Why You Should Be Writing Short Stories

If you’re a writer, you’re most likely writing for the shear love of it.

You’ve spent countless hours honing your skill and developing your stories.

The drawback to being a writer is the amount of time it takes to write your rough draft, complete your rounds of edits, and then set to work on publishing.

It can take years to complete a worthy story. Many stories never make it to the finish line. As a writer, you are left unfulfilled for horribly long amounts of time. This can be frustrating not to mention emotionally distressing.

The good news is that there is a solution to your troubles. You can take all of those brilliant ideas that invade your mind while you’re trying to focus on your main story, and map them out. You can write short stories and develop those great ideas as side projects.

Untitled-10Why Short Stories

  • Today’s readers want shorter reads.
  • They satisfy an immediate need for the reader
  • They are a quick fix for a frustrated author
  • You can offer your short stories in exchange for email subscriptions
  • You can promote your upcoming novel with a free copy of your short story
  • The more books you have published, the more books you sell
  • Your short story will become a part of your body of work
  • Short fiction contests can build your bio
  • Your network will enjoy seeing that you’re a writer who has new stories to share with them often

How to Begin 

Brainstorm: Take the time once a month and do a brainstorming session. Write down all of your story ideas on small pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a container, fish one out and you have your idea. Or, you can take the story idea that most resonates with you and move on to the next step.

Map out your short story: Get ready to make a list. This is the fun part. Now you get to map out your story and you’ll be surprised how quickly the ideas come for something you know will be only 5,000 to 30,000 words. Don’t worry a ton about the logistics, your first draft will be crap anyway. But not to worry, by the time you get to your last round of edits, you’ll have a great short to share with your readers or to sell to an audience that’s eating them up.

Not sure how to set up your map, I’ll show you:

The Map

  • List the beginning, middle, and end of your story in three acts. Here is your main story idea, a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Write down your idea and think about how you’re going to hook your reader with the beginning. Who is your protagonist, what are they doing, what are they going to be confronted with, how is this going to trip them up.

In the middle everything is a learning experience, this is where your character learns all of their lessons. Leave them nearly defeated.

In the third act your protagonist is ready to really go for their goal. Here is where they will end up, after a few minor successes, facing down their antagonist, win or lose.

  • After you’ve decided what your main story arch is, you can move on to the arch of each act. Divide each act into chapters. Typically it’s best to go with the same arch so splitting your acts into three chapters works well. You want to keep  the story flowing within your chapters and entice your reader to continue on to the following chapter. So here it’s not so much about a beginning, middle and end. You do, however, want to follow an arch that builds excitement and the need to know more.
  • Take each chapter and split it up into three scenes and repeat the above process, writing down the arch of the chapters. Keep the momentum going.

There you go, easy peasy, you have outlined your short story and have a compelling map to guide your writing process.

 

Ultimately, it pays to write short stories. You can use short story writing to explore different genres that you might not try otherwise. Your shorts can attract an assortment of new people to your network that may not have found you beforehand, this can lead to some really great feedback on your weekly posts. It’s acceptable to jump genres as an author within the short story realm. Writing in several different genres gives you the freedom to sharpen your skills as a writer by diversifying your writing.

I like the idea of trying your voice in different genres, it strengthens your creativity and provides a platform for you to have fun with your writing. I suggest writing at least one short story to see if it’s something that might appeal to you. You might decide you enjoy the process so much that it becomes a part of your regular writing habit.

What are your opinions about short stories, would you ever try writing one?


book-wall-1151406_960_720Check out:

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story

9 Ways Writing Short Stories Can Pay Off for Writers

 

How to Write a Character Sketch

How to write a character sketch copy small

A sketch is a starting point.

In the visual arts, artists carry around sketch pads to practice and develop the fundamental skills of their craft with the aim of producing paintings that seem to jump off the canvas, or sculptures that seem to move in just the right light.

The same is true for authors who use character sketches.

Writers use this tool to develop and rehearse one of the fundamental skills of their craft -characterization.

However, the final goal is not to have a notepad full of character sketches, but an author should get to know his or her character through this practice.

While not everything that an author writes in a character sketch must be included in the novel, the author should develop an in-depth and all-encompassing knowledge of every facet of the character’s personality in order to create a consistent and engaging persona.

The ultimate goal of a writer is to take these character sketches and use them to craft a wonderfully engrossing, character-driven work of fiction.

iStock_000018149672XSmall

Try Some Book Study

A Character Sketch is a great way to assess the characters in the literature you are reading or people that you are researching about. It can give you tools of observation as you look at the many details about another individual.

When studying a specific character in a literary piece the sketch gives you the freedom to be a detective and try to find out what the author is expressing through their characters. You can sketch the protagonist ( the favorable hero or heroine in the story,) or the antagonist ( the character which causes the conflict for the main character), or the supporting characters.

This sharpens the skill of observation and note-taking as you focus on one specific character and the traits that make them ‘who they are’ in the book.

Can you write a sketch without a book to study? Absolutely!  A great way to practice is to sketch someone you know in real-life.

Untitled-1 copy

Writing a Character Sketch

When you are writing a Character Sketch, want to look for qualities of character and/or personality traits that you see in the person you want to write about.  The main goal of this is to be able to tell something  about the person you are researching. Think of it like an introduction.  In essence, you are introducing the reader to the person you are writing about.

Be sure to use strong visual words in your writing. You want to provide a lasting mental image of the person or character you are writing about. The use of quality adjectives and feeling in your writing, using words that relate to the five senses,  elicit an emotional response from your reader.  This will allow your reader to not only connect with you and the character but will show how you felt when reading a piece or spending time with the person you are writing about.

This type of writing only requires you to give a brief glimpse of the individual. When you are preparing to write make a list of the traits or details you want to include. It is possible to assign the number of traits equal to the # of paragraphs or supporting topics needed. Or you can categorize the subjects into a broader spectrum which allows you to have multiple supporting points for each topic.  It is always best to outline your writing material first so you have a good idea what you are writing.

Your outline should include descriptions on the following details:

  • Tell about their physical features. ( hair color, height, etc.)
  • Tell about the character’s personality. ( are they funny, serious, quiet, etc.?)
  • Their  likes or dislikes( What you know about their preferences and why?)
  • Talk about their family ( siblings, family history, etc)
  • What are their  beliefs or  hobbies?
  • Include anything that makes us see “who” they are.
  • What do you like or dislike about them?
  • Why are you drawn to them?

Sample Outline

Here is a sample outline for you to follow. It is a basic 5 paragraph ( approximately 500 word essay outline)  Feel free to take this and make it your own or make your own outline using this as a guide.

Introduction:

This section will introduce the character and is typically the first paragraph in  your paper.  It should include the following:

  • Your thesis statement ( the overall theme of the paper or the main idea of what you are writing) . The Thesis statement should  include the most  important character traits.
  • The subtopics ( these become the topic sentence in your body paragraphs) should be included in this paragraph as well. For example: use 1-2 sentences to list the traits that you are going to talk about. End with a transition sentence that ties into the 2nd paragraph.

Body:

This is paragraphs 2-4 or the in between paragraphs. The body comes between the Introduction and the Conclusion. These paragraphs detail the traits listed as the subtopics from the Introduction. Those subtopics should be the topic sentences in each body paragraph.

  • Always try to include the most important trait 1st, the second most important detail next, and so on.  Each paragraph has 1 trait which is discussed in detail. Include information  about experiences that support the trait which is being discussed.

Remember!  You want to pull your reader in so include details that will connect them to your main character.

Conclusion:

This is the last paragraph in your paper. Try to conclude with a final comment, pointed and well-expressed, that highlights the traits discussed in the paper.

  • Restate your thesis statement.
  • Remind the reader of your most important points.
  • Close with a solid statement which finalizes all you are trying to communicate to the reader.

 

Another Approach Recommended by Editors

 Who is your character physically?

Physical characteristics are the first things we notice when we meet someone. Therefore, this is a good starting point when writing a character sketch. Is your character a woman or a man? Is he or she tall or short? Is your character bald? How old is your character? Does he or she have a disability?

Authors, eager to explore the in-depth psychology of their written subjects, might discount these details as unimportant and base. But it is often these very details that lead to conflict or are the means through which we explore a character’s psychology. As an example of this, we recommend reading Flannery O’Connor’s Good Country People; in this short story, the physical details of the main character are representations of her internal state. Without a vivid description of this character’s physicality, a critical dimension of the plot would be lost and the central conflict would be nonexistent. Answering questions about your character’s physicality is the first step in creating a fully realized character.

What is your character doing?

This is the next question to ask because it brings into account other aspects of story writing such as setting and time. The answer to this question will also affect other aspects of your sketch, such as what your character is wearing or how he or she is feeling. Is your character walking down the street? Is he or she sitting in a park? Is your character working on a boat? Asking what your character is doing will not only help you understand your character, but also his or her relationship to the setting in your story.

Authors may be tempted to gloss over this part of characterization. When asked what his or her character is doing, an author might give a cursory answer; he or she may answer that the subject is at the movies, for example. But consider all that there is to do at a movie theatre: Is the character waiting in line for tickets or at the concession stand? Is he or she waiting to talk to the manager? Perhaps the character is sitting impatiently waiting for the movie to begin. Getting as specific as you can when answering this question will not only help you define your character, but will also help to define the other elements of fiction.

What is your character feeling?

This is probably one of the more complex questions you can ask about your character. Is your character angry? Is he or she happy, sad, tired, or depressed? Does your character love something or someone? Asking questions about your character’s emotional life might evolve into the production of a character history. While this may be tempting, you have to focus on what your subject is feeling within the context of the story you are writing. Although the answers to these questions are important, they are rarely explicitly stated in the story.

Authors may be tempted to start with the emotional or psychological state of their characters and they may even explicitly state them. This can lead to one of the cardinal sins of fiction writing: telling instead of showing. Implicitly showing how your character is feeling by his or her interactions with other characters or the setting is infinitely more interesting to read than explicitly stating whether your character is happy, sad, elated, joyful, or miserable.

Do you have any creative ideas that help you put together character sketches?

 

CDb copy

Sources:                                                                                                 http://www.journeysingrace.com/home-education/lesson-plans/literature/how-to-write-a-character-sketch/ http://www.scribendi.com/advice/how_to_write_a_character_sketch.en.html