Short stories are often seen as a good place to start for new writers, as they provide a useful grounding in the craft of writing. However, while writing a piece of short fiction is one thing, creating an inspirational story is difficult to pull off. Here are some pointers for writers looking to take their work to the next level.
Think about theme
Theme forms the essence of the story, as it impacts on the motivation and behaviour of the characters.
Themes tell the reader what the story is supposed to be about at a deeper level: for example, betrayal, loss of innocence, the impact of violence. Theme allows the reader to explore the nature of morality, and in doing so, pose questions to challenge them.
For example, a story which examines the effects of betrayal on a friendship can force people to look at their own relationships in a new light.
A skilfully written narrative can even go a step further and influence the way people think about an issue in a wider, social context.
Concentrate on character
Good characters are ones the reader can empathise with in a story.
This doesn't mean they have to be 100% sympathetic: a flawed hero, who changes and grows from the experience, is more credible than one who is portrayed as a victim of circumstance.
Remember, while external events can trigger the conflict, it's the character's inner turmoil which will hook the reader. If they can relate to the character on a emotional level, the story will be a lot more powerful.
Of course, creating believable, three-dimensional characters is tricky, but a writer who takes time to get to know their creations beforehand will find the process easier.
A good way of doing this is by posing a series of theoretical questions to your characters based on their hopes, fears and sense of morality.
The answers that you imagine can be used to create a character profile, which should make them more realistic.
What are the lessons learned?
It's no good creating strong characters and a compelling theme, if nothing has changed by the end of the story. These changes don't have to be earth-shattering, but they must demonstrate some kind of shift in the main character.
In order to achieve this on the page, think about the moral of the story. In other words, what lessons do you want the character to have learned by the end? These lessons will be closely linked to the theme and address an aspect of morality, such as, crime never pays.
Once you have a theme, a character and a moral, you have a basis on which to develop a inspirational and thought-provoking short story.