Publish Insights 25 September 2021
By Kevin RR Williams
Enter The Door of Short Stories
Writers have the ability to open portals of destinations anywhere within the universe. It is possible describe the unseen and resolve perplexing mysteries. Creative writing is most fulfilling when readers, filled with excitement, peer through the windows you open to experience your adventures.
A novella is much shorter than a novel, but longer than a typical blog post. It can be in excess of 5,000 words—technically at least 20,000 words. You may notice some short mystery novels in the separate Novellas blog on this website. Here are some interesting behind-the-scenes tips for writing such stories.
To become a good writer, you must be an avid reader. Reading the work of other authors increases your vocabulary and knowledge of cultures. You will also need to read your own stories many times during proofreading. On this website, a story gets read at least a half dozen times before publication.
Like scripting a movie, come up with a compelling plot and cast your characters. A good plot draws readers in with clues, cliffhangers, and surprise revelations. This requires planning. An outline of each chapter allows you to pace the action appropriately. Build the foundation for future climaxes.
There is generally an overall plot along with concurrent subplots. You might shift focus from one subplot to another within chapters. This is where you can develop character personalities.
Perhaps there is a company with Chris, a young male MBA graduate who wants to quickly climb the corporate ladder. His girlfriend, Alice, was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Never having to work a day in her life, Alice can go anywhere in the world. Chris will not be able to satisfy her luxurious lifestyle until he acquires wealth as a regional VP in the company.
At his new job, he meets a personable coworker named Mary. Will Chris see that they have more in common? Will Alice tire of waiting? Amid these subplots, the government is conducting an ongoing investigation for possible shutdown of the company. How will this affect Chris’ climb up the ladder?
Visualize each character. In your notes, describe the age, gender, nationality, and personality traits of each one. This helps you visualize how differently they each react to various situations. What is the personality? Is he boastful, domineering, corrupt, boisterous, shy, funny, emotional, or dangerous? Does she have a prominent role, a supporting role, or a brief mention?
Don’t get caught up in a lengthy back-in-forth dialogue without identifying who is saying what. In a movie, you can distinguish voices and see faces. When writing, a reader has only your words to provide orientation. Not being able to follow who is speaking can be as disconcerting as overuse of “he said” and “she said.” With good narration, you can develop characters through the eyes of another:
The elevator doors slide open to reveal an ominous man wearing a tailor-made suit. When he steps out, everyone on the floor instantly becomes mute with gazes fixed on their computer displays. But the voice of Chris, in conversation with Mary, echos throughout the room.
The tall 235-pound man stealthily walking up behind Chris interrupts, “Apparently, you don’t appreciate the value of money, boy. Why are you ogling and gabbing with my daughter when you should be finishing the reports I requested yesterday?”
Turning as pale as porcelain, Chris stammers, “Oh, Mr. Alexander, please accept my apologies. I didn’t realize that you… and her… but we… I mean I… will have that… for you… right away… Right after I… visit the restroom…, with your permission…, sir.”
In that brief dialogue, what do you learn about three different characters? Can you follow who is speaking? Did you detect a plot twist? Did you feel the emotions? The articulate speech of the MBA graduate becomes Swiss cheese as he processes the news that Mary is his boss’ daughter. How does the new information affect Chris’ goals for climbing the corporate ladder?
Also take note of the variety in sentence structure that incorporates adjectives and alternating subject and predicate. Monotonous writing might begin each sentence with a noun or pronoun: “An ominous man steps off the elevator… Everyone becomes mute… Chris keeps talking… Mr. Alexander says… Chris says….” In the sample story, this is not the case.
The more you research your subject, the more convincing, even a fictional piece, can be. When working with a team of editors, publishers, and graphic designers, you can’t write in a vacuum. You should present an outline or receive one prior to writing too much of the story.
Certain subplots may require reworking or elimination. Character personalities could benefit from revision. You might want to wow everyone with what you can accomplish all by yourself. But this is not a sound strategy for a team. Avoid getting to the end, only to discover that development is too convoluted to follow. Accept critiques. Keep your collaborators in the loop. They will help you write better.
Some freelancers try to lighten their load by subcontracting chapters to different writers. Plot inconsistencies along with variations in word usage, punctuation, and grammar can reveal this disconcerting collaboration.
With your overall plot summary, list of subplots, and character descriptions, you should have much to write about. By progressively untangling interactions and possible endings, you will have people sitting on the edge of their seats while reading your novella. For more tips, click the “writing” tag below.