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Five top tips for a great short story – and five days to create one

It’s not true that short stories are easier to write than novels. They’re certainly shorter but have equally complex demands.  A perfect piece of short fiction is as hard to achieve as a finely wrought item of jewellery. It calls for precision, supreme control, and a good strong tale at its heart.

This is what I aim to foster during the regular Five Day Short Story courses I teach at the Faber Academy.  Meanwhile, to get you started, here 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.

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