Today, your task is to make a list. A literary list, that is.
Grocery lists, to-do lists, or goals lists written with the effect of showing a person’s life, their struggles, their failures, etc, are terrific pieces of flash.
They test the reader’s inferential powers.
Your challenge: provide a list of items from a luxurious bedroom, an overstuffed garage, or a refrigerator. Use specific concrete details. Reveal a sketch of a person’s life through these items. Imply something.
Windy Lynn Harris is a prolific writer, a trusted mentor, and a frequent speaker at literary events. Her long list of short stories and personal essays have been published in literary, trade, and women’s magazines across the U.S. and Canada in places like The Literary Review, The Sunlight Press, and Literary Mama, among many other journals. She is the founder of Market Coaching for Creative Writers, a program that teaches writers how to get their essays and short stories published in magazines, and she works as a developmental-editor-for-hire, specifically for short creative prose. Windy also teaches the craft of writing online and in person. Visit her website for publishing information and writing inspiration: www.windylynnharris.com.
Writing a short story is a worthy mission. Short stories are fun to write, fast to compose (well, faster than books), and they get published every single day. Here’s a quick guide to help you craft short stories like a pro.
Before we get started, let’s put ourselves in short story mode. Your goal when writing a short story is to deliver a satisfying narrative in a very small package. Short stories aren’t tiny novels. They rarely have any subplots at all. Instead, the action revolves around one main conflict. The theme is revealed through a character and his or her obstacles. Tension keeps the reader invested in the stakes all the way through to the resonant ending.
That might sound like a lot to manage all at once, but if you break the artistic process down to three steps, you’ll find your way to a satisfying story without wandering off the map.
Normally my Tuesday Reading Room posts review a short story I’ve read, but I’m breaking with tradition this week to tell you about a fabulous — and much needed — new book, Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays, by Windy Lynn Harris, a writer and the founder of Marketing Coach for Creative Writers.