While an extended story with multiple chapters and layers of depth may give a writer enough breathing room to truly build and explore the lives and personalities of the characters they′ve brought to life, I think it′s still a good practice to occasionally go back to writing short, self contained, stories to keep that particular part of their creative muscle strong. Short stories and flash fiction can teach you things than the ′wide open canvas′ style of writing can′t. It can help you to focus your talents, work on self editing, and keep your storytelling less complicated than your average epic saga. Over the past year, I′ve been trying to write more, one-shot, short stories and smaller mini-series, myself, in order to do exactly that. Strengthen my ability to condense and control my writing skills in order to quickly and effectively get to the point without making any grand plans for an entire ensemble cast of characters and any big dramatic plot twists and turns that won′t happen until much much later in the story. Sometimes...keeping things simple is a good thing. And with just the right words and just the right characters, you can create something truly sweet and inspiring without having to make a 72 chapter blowout! Hehehe!
So, let′s talk about short stories, shall we?
The skill involved in creating a straightforward, one time, story is all about selecting a single situation and describing it in a way where only that single moment matters. Maybe you′re writing about a boy′s first kiss, and that′s great. It can be a moving story that gives your readers a really warm and fuzzy feeling inside when they read it. But (at least for me), my gut instinct is to create a relatable main character, then flesh him out through his actions and dialogue, then introduce the love interest, and then allow the readers to peek in to see how they got to know one another. How they relate to one another. How they get along and ultimately build up to that first kiss...giving it meaning and value and a giddy sense of relief. But, with a short story, you don′t have the time and space for all of that. Find the ′punchline′, and zero in on what′s most important. And only what′s most important. If you decide you want to give some background details about what led up to this miraculous kiss... that′s great! But do it in just a few sentences or perhaps a few, well worded, paragraphs. And tell it, almost, as if it was a flashback. This is who he is, this is how we met, and now we′re ′here′. Done. The idea is to concentrate on the kiss. That′s what the short story is about, right? That′s the punchline! Awesome! Keep it that way. Start your story ten minutes before the kiss happens, and end the story FIVE minutes after the kiss happens. Any bonus details that you add about what led to this moment and what hope there is for future events down the road are welcome, but mostly unnecessary. Practice restricting yourself from getting too far into details that will ultimately lead to ′other′ story elements that aren′t related to that one particular moment in time. For example...if the two characters sharing this kiss grew up together and have been best friends since they were in Kindergarten, and are now celebrating their seventeenth birthday together alone with a movie marathon in their bedroom...cool. All relevant information. However, if you mention parental divorce, or an illness, or ex-boyfriends, sexual confusion, religious constraints, or anything like that...those are details that have more ′story′ behind them. Those are elements that may need extra explanation for them to be considered important to the plot itself. And if you just mention it and then don′t do anything more with that info...then it isn′t important to the plot itself...in which case...why bring it up? Eliminate it from your narrative. Get rid of it. Keep things tightly wound around the special moment in question.
It′s a first kiss. Focus on the kiss and nothing else. Don′t add, ″By the way, the boy I′m kissing happens to be a contract killer for the mob!″ Hehehe, that is a detail that will take at LEAST five to ten more pages to fully explain! Five to ten pages that have absolutely nothing to do with this kiss itself. So...stay focused. K? Hehehe!
Short stories follow the same basic rules as the longer ones do. The situation at hand is just much more grounded and isolated in nature. The shorter the story, the more precise you have to be with choosing your moment. The story has to have a beginning, a middle, and (hopefully) a satisfying end. Just like any other. But you have to find ways to effectively narrow your vision as much as you can without sacrificing the essential details you need to get our point across. Some stories don′t lead to grand adventure and heartbreaking drama. Sometimes, I write short stories about a guy going to a gay bar for the very first time, or two boys that practice kissing on each other so they can be ready for ′girls′ later on, or about stalking a really cute classmate through his photos online. Those stories are short and to the point, without the need for much explanation beforehand, or much promise for anything afterward. It′s just a golden moment in time. A single snapshot of someone′s life, detailed in words, and then the rest is left up to the reader to figure out for themselves.
If you ask me, that can be even more endearing to a section of your audience, sometimes. They can finish building the rest of the story on their own, and they can make it whatever they want it to be. Hehehe, see? You get to deliver the epic romance feel without having to do all the hard work yourself. Awesome, right?
Anyway, the point is to occasionally return to your roots and try putting out a short story every now and then. Remember when the thought of writing 3000 to 5000 words in one story seemed like such an impossible chore? LOL! ″I can′t write that much! I don′t have that much to say!″ That was my feeling, at least. But, over time, I started adding details, expanding on my visuals, getting more comfortable with my dialogue and plot structure...and now it′s actually more of a challenge to hold back and keep things simple than it is to elaborate. I′ve learned that it′s best to find your particular niche and find a decent balance between being too broad and being too brief with my ideas. A taste of both is fun, but too much of one or the other can taint the ′broth′, you know?
So try it out! When you get the inspiration for a scene or a short story that doesn′t really lend itself to a much bigger project, try writing it out and posting it for your readers to see every now and then. I think it′s FUN, myself! Hehehe! But I′m a psycho, so don′t take my example as anything made of sound mind! But, not only does the practice keep your perspective clear and fresh from time to time, but you get the chance to experiment with new and unique ideas whenever you feel inspired. Different styles of writing...and it helps you to truly learn how to paint a crisp and clear vision in a single scene without losing sight of what that scene is all about. A skill that will definitely help you out when you′re writing your epic ′War And Peace′ sized novel...and want one major scene or another to stand out as the centerpiece of that part of the book!
Get it? Good! As always, I hope this helps spark a few ideas, and I wish you guys the best of luck! Seezya soon!