Advice for Writers of Short Fiction

Tidbits of Advice for Writers of Short Fiction from Kristine Simelda, Editor at River Ridge Press, Dominica.

  • A short story focuses on one incident, as opposed to a novel with more room to explore.
  • It has a single plot and a limited number of characters, including protagonist and antagonist.
  • It occurs over a relatively short period of time and it is more character than plot driven.

Traditional themes might include: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, Adventure Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy/Tragedy/Romance.

Start with an Idea and create a character and setting (which is almost like a character).

Decide on Tense. Who is the narrator, what is their viewpoint?

Here are three viewpoints:

Subjective: One character and his thoughts and feelings.
Omniscient: author knows everything about everybody.
Objective: author observes and tells story according to actions of characters but has no idea what’s in their head. 

1st Person uses the pronoun “I”- 2nd Person uses “You”- 3rd Person uses “He” or “She.”

Tip: To decide which tense or POV to use, write a scene from using different ones and choose. 

Plot: A character is in a situation with a problem. They try to solve the problem, but make it worse. They make a final attempt, and maybe fail or succeed, but learn a lesson in the process. 

  • 1st Draft: Type away. Define character, create atmosphere, and advance plot.
  • Then go back and move things around, give your story structure and flow according to:
  • A, B, D, C, E: Action, Backstory, Development, Climax, Ending 
  • Or the Beginning, the Conflict (moral or physical), Turning Point, Resolution, and End.
  • 2nd Draft: What is the % of Show (action, dialogue) to Tell (narration)? Should be 60/40
  • Include plenty of emotions, sight, smells, sounds, tastes, colors, textures
  • People do things when they talk: Smile, scratch head, fidget in chair, tie shoes, pass gas.
  • Avoid excessive adverbs and adjectives, write clean, but stay in your own Voice/Style. 

To save time and money, download the PDF of Stunk and White, The Elements of Style and get your punctuation sorted out before you send your work to an editor. 

Always consult a reliable proofreader who has never seen the manuscript before you submit.

Literature should have a moral purpose. RRPD uses fiction as a vehicle of empathy and hope.