Monday, October 22, 2012

Short Stories, Flash Fiction, Story Structure

Hi everyone. Yes, I'm posting this one late on Monday. I needed to give my post for Romantic Friday Writers a little more time since it is being judged by two excellent editors. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I win. The competition is fierce.

So far in our Short Story/Flash Fiction post I've discussed 'word economy' and 'tags.' If you've missed these post and want to review them click here.

Today we will discuss story structure. Yes, even if you are only writing a 400 word flash fiction story, you still need structure. You need:

A Beginning: Here you introduce your character(s).

A Middle: What's the conflict?

An End: Wrap it up.

No story is complete without these three essential ingredients. If you are taking an excerpt from an existing work or a work in progress, keep in mind as you edit to fit the word count that you must have a Beginning, a Middle and an End.

In other words:

Introduce your character to the reader. We don't need long descriptions about what they look like, or what they are wearing. We need to get in their head and better yet, we need to feel what they are feeling. Show us the character while we experience the story through them.

Something troubling this way comes. What is the character worried about? Does a rock suddenly fall on them? Or do they see a love interest chatting with another woman or man? Perhaps someone close has died or is dying. What struggle are they faced with.

Finally, a good conclusion is necessary. In other words,  no cliff hangers.

How do you do all this in 400 words or a little more? With word economy. Di-sect each sentence  pulling only what is essential and put that into the story in the most interesting way you can. Remember, 'Word Economy' is a tool and has nothing to do with your Voice. We will discuss Voice next Monday.

Any questions? I hope this helps.


Unknown said...

This is most welcome advice - structuring short stories is something I have a lot of trouble with, so this'll help a lot. Thanks :)


mooderino said...

Once you get down to so few words it gets really tricky to have a complete feel to a story (certainly for me). Good advice.

Moody Writing

Southpaw said...

Flash fiction is tricky but enjoyable to both read and write.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Jamie
I'm so glad I could help.

Hi Mooderino
True, that's why word economy is so important.

Hi Holly
I agree with you. Once you've learned the mechanics it becomes a personal challenge that is both enjoyable and satisfying.

Thanks all for coming by and leaving a comment.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I write sort novels but still don't think I could write a short story, at least not one flash length.

Carolyn V said...

I had to write a short story for my college creative writing class. It was so much harder than I thought!

Thanks for the advice!

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Carolyn
Yes, I think it is very hard when you first attempt it, but as you challenge yourself to do more stories you learn a rhythm to it.

Thanks for coming by.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Alex
You never know until you try. I didn't think I could do it either. I've learned so much and my writing has improved. Thanks for coming by.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Nancy,

Great advice! I learned my lesson about word economy from my first novel. I literally had to cut it in HALF and it still needs another sheering.

For my second I almost went to the extreme. But it's always easier to add than subtract.

I love flash fiction. I always write it for the A-Z challenges and now for the RFW....

You are not kidding about the competition being fierce! Good luck. I had really enjoyed your entry.

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Michael
Thanks and back to you as well for the RFW post. Our first novels are such a learning experience. Thanks for coming by.

Jackie said...

Love this! Dwindling down my word count is hard for me, but the story is better for it in the long run. Dissecting each sentence is key. Great advice!

And thank you for the huge props on your blog to Dani and I with displaying our buttons. You rock!

N. R. Williams said...

Hi Jackie
You're welcome. Also, glad my advice could help. Thanks for coming by.