How to Write a Short Story

Personally, I love short stories, but I’m very selective and only those from the masters of the genre make the cut (I’m very partial to Maugham myself) But anyway, this blog is a lesson in how to write sharp prose – worth reading just for that.

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build towards it.”

Edgar Allan Poe.

Short stories? Well they must be so easy, they take 20 minutes to read and surely not much more time to write. It’s nothing like the himalayan trek without sherpas, supplies or basic knowledge of mountaineering of the novel. No need to be worrying about 500 page story arcs, or where you’re going to find all those words. You don’t waste time getting the angle of trees shadows at 4pm right, you get to the point. Writing short stories also avoids batting off enquiries from family members as to why you haven’t finished yet. Just sit down, knock one out, and then start writing (boom).

Short stories used to be the scaffold to any fledgling literary career. They are snappy, cool, quick, concise, well-balanced and elegant. Other than these things what’s not…

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Character

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She was walking along the silent streets, sparse lights hardly made a dent in the darkness — the whole effect was rather Victorian with that all important gothic touch, she almost expected Jack the Ripper to be lurking around some corner.
The stars were shimmering, but in keeping with the mood their glint was cold, she couldn’t help but wonder then at their alien glare.

Not casting any shadow, and sliding along walls that seemed to be whispering secret words from days gone by — should she listen or try to run? She wasn’t sure if this was fun or something else entirely…in any case she carried on, slowly coming to terms with the sudden urge to start walking faster. The whole atmosphere was calm and charged, the air light and heavy, Edgar Allan Poe came to her mind even though it was folly…then again, on her clothes were vodka stains and there was semen in her hair…as a character in a dark tale, she really couldn’t do much better. Real fear finally gripped her and she stopped, slid down to the ground, unable to make a sound — trembling slightly, her skin seemingly shrinking, she waited for… a gruesome death or the morning light to appear, whichever was quicker or more likely.

I must say sorry to anyone who was hoping for a sweet kind of tale, I admit it was a little more sordid than at first appeared. You might like to know that the modern day slut made it home safe and sound, she’s sleeping as I speak, recovering from the fear brought on by an overactive imagination — let this be a lesson: don’t read books and don’t be a slut… or rather: choose one or the other, both is a dangerous combination.

I am in this phase at the moment where I’m really disillusioned with writing. It’s not that I’m unable to write, because I’m still writing a lot, but I feel like everything I write is worthless. This phase comes back at regular intervals, it’s hateful. I honestly don’t feel proud of anything I’ve written lately, apart from this: Wild
Do check it out if you have a spare couple of minutes and if you haven’t read it already — it’s the only writing I’ve done lately that makes the cut as far as I’m concerned.

Image credit: shades-of-lethe.deviantart.com