Five Tips For Writing A Powerful Short Story by Shelley Weiner

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This post is written by acclaimed novelist and Academy favourite, Shelley Weiner. This is not her. This is a person unsure of the power of their short fiction.

It is a commonly held fallacy that short stories are somehow easier to write than novels – and certainly they’re, well, shorter. But that’s about it. A perfect piece of short fiction is as hard to achieve as a finely wrought item of jewellery. It demands precision, supreme control, and a good strong tale at its heart.

Here, to get you started, are five essential tips:

  1. Know every character in your story. What does each one of them want? What will they do in order to get it?

  2. Be ruthless. Make something happen to your main character that will put him or her to the test. This will help your reader to care about the outcome, which is vital.

  3. Make your opening as close as possible to the ending. Constricting the time frame can strengthen your tale.

  4. Write your story as though it’s a letter to a friend who shares your sensibilities – and your sense of humour. It’s a trick to make your story more engaging and to help with the flow.

  5. Every word counts; every sentence should advance the story. Don’t waste a single comma or distract your reader’s attention with an ill-conceived metaphor or an irrelevant piece of purple prose.

Shelley Weiner


Shelley Weiner is the tutor on our week-long course, The Five Day Short Story.


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