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How to Write a Short Story

How to Write a Short Story

By Sean McCarthy

Step 1: Panic

An important part of the writing process is having a deadline that you ignore until the last possible minute. This will give you the element that fuels all great creative minds, panic. The creative mind is in a constant state of assault and panic, usually one imposed by editors and publishers and exacerbated by the decision of that mind to marathon the entire second season of Game of Thrones the night before the assignment is due. Panic focuses the creative mind and brings it down to just the essentials of a story: the bare minimum required to get paid or get a grade.

Step 2: Rename people you know in real life and make them into characters

Creating original characters then realistically extrapolating their motivations and personalities is a very difficult and time-consuming process. If you can do this then you have failed to follow step one.  A much simpler process is just taking people you are familiar with and changing their names so they don’t get mad and/or sue you. An added bonus of this is it allows you to settle grudges from the safety of your Macbook. Need a strong and beautiful protagonist who is misunderstood by the world? Just use yourself! Need an evil villain? That girl/boy who rejected you for that dance/internship/World of Warcraft raid will do fine! At its best writing means changing your life without ever having to use your gym membership.

Step 3: “Create” scenarios for your characters to confront

The basis of all story is conflict. Now that you have characters they need to have conflict and you will create this conflict by having the needs and desires of your characters bump into one another. Or just steal a bunch of stories told to you by the people you know from step 2 (this is where the changing their names part becomes really important). The nice thing about stealing stories is you don’t have to make any guesses about what your characters would do in these scenarios, you already know! Heck you’ve heard your friend Jeff (change name to "Ralph") tell the story about the pumpkin carving knife half a dozen times. Just type it up, put your name on it, and suddenly people think you’re the person to call for witty Halloween anecdotes.

Step 4: Share your work with your peers

You have finished and you get to bask in the glory of writing. Post it on your Facebook and let the 2 Likes you receive be an immortal monument to your greatness. Do not fret at the complete apathy your creation is met with. Van Gogh died penniless and unappreciated. Frequently remind yourself of this fact so that the reality of the world does not disturb your bubble of hubris. You are the greatest writer of your generation. Whether or not your generation is ever aware of that is irrelevant.

Topics: Life
Tags: writing, how to, short stories

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