How to write a short story (or how not to)

Joe’s Post #54

short storiesAnother confession. I find short stories very hard to write. Like getting a rusted nut to turn with your fingers hard. Like doing math in your head hard. I like big stories. Novel size stories. GRR Martin novel size! With grand sweeping storylines, a thousand characters, clever themes and epic final battles.

Hard to put all that in a short story. Yet, there was an open call for one so I thought to myself, self, let’s give it a try. It’s sort of the same process I went through to do zip lining (minus some of the screaming).

So, here’s how it went. First, I needed an idea. The magazine was looking for stories about Cyborgs and I love cyborgs so this was a good fit. I immediately went into full-on nerd mode and thought of an idea. Zombies and Cyborgs. Oh, I love both, so why not put them together? Like an undead Sarah Connor and the terminator. Oh oh, or how about Robocop and the zombie apocalypse?

Then I read the submission guidelines closer (note to self, read things carefully before going into nerdgasms.) The editor said, and I quote, “Zombie stories. Seriously. NO.”  Now call me crazy, but it seems to me like he wasn’t a whole ton of keen about the walking dead. So, I had to rebrainstorm. (my new word.)

dogNow doing this alone isn’t easy for me, especially if I can’t use any zombies. But I started with a character – as I now start all my stories. In this case, a dog. A cyborg dog. I named her Daisy, cuz, like, that’s a cool dog name. Then I gave her a problem and a companion and threw them both into a post apocalyptic world where mutation runs rampant and power-armored Crusaders roam the land with big ass flamethrowers incinerating anyone with tainted flesh.

Then I just wrote it.

And you know what? I had fun. But when I finished, I went back and looked at it.

It needed more. So I looked at adding more conflict, more humor, more emotion. I raised the stakes a bit, then a bit more. I made sure everyone had a goal and wanted something important to them. I made my characters suffer.  I cut out anything that wasn’t amazing or awesome.

Now, this took a whole lot longer than it really should have taken, but I got it done, and, despite a few technical glitches, (rot in hell, word 360!), I submitted it today.

It felt good to get something new out there.

Wish me luck.

It’s back to the novel tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “How to write a short story (or how not to)

  1. Good for you Joe! I also admit to not really being a short story person. I tend not to read them, let alone write them. But you’re making me want to try it. Good luck!

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