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Perfect Short Story

Updated on February 24, 2015

The Basic

A short story is, by definition
- short. But, It is a story, complete
in itself.

It is not a chapter of a longer
work, nor a fragment.
It is not unfinished.

With the last word, there is nothing more that needs to be said. .

Every successful short story writer gives the same advice; Make Every Word Count.
Any word that can be removed, is removed until the next eviction would lose clarity.

Every character has to have a purpose. If the purpose is a facilitation, the character
needs no name, just the action. One doesn't list items in a short story. Catch-all
pronouns do the duty. One example/description is sufficient.

Any data that the reader needs to have can be transmitted via a character in one of
the many devices; i.e. reading a placard, overhearing, being told or seeing.

Editing; Vital

Although you may think that you've cut your words to the very bone, you'll find your
work has just begun.

When you have completed your story, leave it for a little while. Then return with a hatchet. You're there not just to do the spelling/grammar thing, but to cut off every single word
that is unnecessary. Every incident, every character.

Your short story might have been 700 words when you completed, it should be slightly over 500 when you're done editing.

If you're new to writing short stories the number of words might seem far too small.
But when you recognise that a short story is to get to the point as quickly as possible,
you chop off the diversions.

Short vs Short

There are specific genres which require specific word counts; i.e. 55 words no more.

A basic short story should be under one thousand words, consider two pages in a magazine.

One of the problems is to know when you've come to the end. Determining the end might
be the difficulty. Often an author doesn't want to let go of a character or feels the need to explain, and what was to be a short story now becomes a long chapter in a book.

Get to the Point

Every short story gets to the point. I doesn't take the long way around. It gives enough to set the scene, It starts in the 'middle';

"I got off the subway at 42nd Street just before rush hour.." gives the place, the time, and there need be no more reference to where the story is taking place. The last sentence, at the conclusion of the action could be; "The good thing about subways, they run all night."

Hence the very means the protagonist used to reach the location of the action was not simply a 'setting' but connects to the ending.

In good short stories, that connecting of the first and last sentence is the goal.


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    • qeyler profile image

      qeyler 6 years ago

      you're very welcome

    • HendrikDB profile image

      HendrikDB 6 years ago

      Very informative - thanks!