I gave campus journalism training and writing workshop to these guys a few weeks back. So nice to see them again yesterday sharing with me the news that they won in four categories at the recent Philippine Information Agency's basic campus journalism seminar. As a parent myself, it is a joy to see young people living out their gifts the best way they can.
How to Write a Good Short Story
by Anabelle Badilla-Gubuan
A short story, simply put, is like a shorter version of a novel. It has the same elements as a novel has: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution.From my own experience as a writer, though, a short story will require more creativity from the author because given the limitations of the number of words, you have to make sure your readers are satisfied and truly impressed.
Indeed, how do you impress your readers? A short story is a work of fiction or imagination but then again, just like any other stories long or short, you can always get inspirations from the reality around you. What people are looking for usually is how they can relate to the characters, their pains, their fears, their triumphs and their dreams. Look around you and everything, everyone, has a story to tell: the beggar in the street, the lonesome willow tree in the middle of a park, the quarrelling couple in the subway, the strict librarian with very thick eyeglasses. The list is endless. But before you can get your hands in these stories, you have to remember a few important things.
1. Have you read enough short stories?
Reading will help you sharpen your mind and develop your skill as a short story writer. It doesn’t mean that you will be copying the idea of others, though. The more short stories you read, the more ready you will become to take on the task because it will build up your excitement and encourage you to actually do it.
2. Outline your story.
When you’re ready to start writing, you can now take your pen and paper and outline your story. List down the elements I have mentioned above and make notes next to these elements:
The characters: each character has to leave an impression that will make the reader remember them long after they have finished reading your story. Make sure you don’t overwhelm your readers with too many characters. Some short, compelling stories take over the world by just two or three characters.
The setting: Describe the scene, don’t describe the picture.
The plot: it has to have the element of surprise. Putting a twist somewhere near the end always works.
The conflict: “Human interest” is the aspect of a story that interest people because it resonates with their own experiences. This always keeps the reader riveted to their seats simply because they can relate to what the characters undergo in the story.
The resolution: keep in mind that a good story has an element of justice. It doesn’t have to be a traditional happy-ever-after kind of ending, but make sure you make something right out of the conflict you have presented. Some stories can go on and on, stuck in the conflict of the whole story and it ends badly there.
3. Strong title, equally strong ending.
Your title must represent your whole story but in a way that will just give a hint to your readers. It is a come on, like teacups placed in the front porch table. But mind you, making a compelling title is as challenging as coming up with an ending just as good. Your ending has to make your story come in full circle.
4. Stick to your story.
When there is a temptation to stray, to back to your outline and check your elements one by one. It will keep you grounded.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
Capture your reader’s attention. Imagine, visualize, dream, make it up. Most of all experiment. It is only in trying out new things all the time that the best writers learn and become best sellers.