December Toolbox – Short Story

Yeah, yeah, yeah – everyone knows how to write a short story. So why did we put it up as a toolbox item? Because although anyone can write a short story, if you (author) want to do a good short story, or put a story in a competition with the hope that it might even get a mention, then you should know things about short story.

One: what is a short story? In Australia, a short story is defined by the competition you enter, which is usually 2000 words (it’s different in other countries, so check – check and double-check), and there are very specific requirements. For example, if you enter a competition with the theme food, and your story is about starving – well, you will starve. And your story will go to the bottom of the pile. Read the requirements. Read them again.

Two: on competitions: do your research. There are a lot of dodgy competitions. Check, check, and check again. If you have to pay money up front, check even more thoroughly. A rough guide: if the entry fee is almost as steep as the potential prizes, it’s most likely a sham. If the fee is reasonable and the prize is humungous, it’s most likely a sham. Check with the writing associations, then check again. It’s your money, it’s your story. Make sure you don’t give up all rights to your copyright just by entering a competition.

Three: what is a story? What is the difference between story and literary? A story has elements: A Character Struggling to Resolve a Problem. Character – you should know what a character is; Struggle = plot; Problem = conflict. All this is placed within a structure (usually the three act structure, but not always). A literary piece may have one or more of these elements missing. It may be a character sketch, where there is no struggle. It may be a vignette, or a moment in time, or a slice of life; it may be magic realism, or the structure may be ‘different’ or experimental.

If you are going to lodge a short story, make sure you know which category your story lives in, read the competition rules and stick to them (or the anthology rules), and enjoy the process – and hopefully, you get what you want from your story.

Good writing.

For January 2016, the first meeting will be on Friday 15. Even we very dedicated group members need to remember it’s Christmas and spend some time with family and friends.



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