The challenge in writing a short story is to give it a complete introduction and ending while filling in the blanks between the two in only a few words. Then, when you look at many fiction writing exercises, they encourage you to write a short story for practice. How does that really help if you’re struggling with a short story in the first place, right?
So these short story writing exercises were developed to help you begin to work out the kinks that tend to come up in the body text of the narrative. This way, whether it’s 250 words or 2,500 of them, you’ll be able to come up with a complete story that people will love reading.
Exercise #1: It’s All About Precision
Short stories don’t have the luxury of flowing descriptions or lengthy thought dialogues. Each sentence must be precise with specific descriptions and narratives that drive the story forward. To do that, many writers need to work on the actual structure of their writing.
For this exercise, write out two paragraphs that you’d include in your short story. When you’ve finished them, it’s time to edit them. Reduce the sentence to create more precision. Here’s an example:
First draft: It was one of those nights when you could see shadows dance across the lawn. I was sitting on my front porch with Chuck and Buck, two of my best friends, and we watched as the light traced patterns on insect flights.
Edited draft: Shadows danced across the lawn in the moonlight. My two best friends, Chuck and Buck, helped me watch the light trace patterns on insect flights.
Every writer can condense their words a little. Work on being precise and the short story will naturally gain the reading rhythm it needs.
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Exercise #2: Start Fishing
What makes a short story stand out is its hook. With this type of story, you don’t have time to set up a hook. It has to come from the very first sentence. Think about what your story is going to be about, summarize it, and then hook the reader by promoting the plot in that opening line.
Here are some examples of a great hook in a shorty story opening line to give you an idea of what to expect.
#1. It wasn’t sea salt in the air that night – it was murder.
#2. The greatest love in my life touched my hand and my skin tingled.
#3. A fog had been in front of my eyes, but one look at her and the fog lifted.
#4. I’ve always lived life like it was cranked to eleven, but today I found out I was more of a 2.
You don’t need to have a perfect opening line right away. Write down a few of them and even consider reading them to someone to see what they think of them. Then take the best ones and make it the cornerstone of your story.
Exercise #3: Rhyming Games
One way to work on your rhythm and descriptions is to follow purposeful patterns with your writing. For this exercise, write a four-line stanza for a story, but here’s the catch: it has to have the same rhythm throughout and the lines must rhyme.
This is a free-writing exercise and can include any subject matter. The purpose here is to work on understanding how different rhythms in a story can help to bring the reader forward even if the narrative feels like it may be stalled.
Exercise #4: Sketch Your Location
Sometimes short stories are more defined by their locations than their characters. This is particularly true for historical and science fiction short stories. In this type of story, consistency will be the key to your success.
For this exercise, think of a new world that could be the setting for a story. Now think about what it looks like. What it smells like. What kind of attitude people have there. List all of the traits you can think of for this world, even if it seems inconsequential. Even if you don’t use this world, the exercise will help you notice more of the fine details that make a short story really pop.
How Do You Approach Short Stories?
The inclination of a writer is to just sit down and write the short story from scratch right away. Some writers can do this quite successfully. If you’re struggling to do that, then get some practice in with these short story writing exercises. After all – writing is a skill that can benefit from the repetition of practice every now and then. These exercises will help you get that repetition.
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