How I Write Short Stories–Part I

I get a lot of questions about how I write short stories, so I thought I’d take you through my process, step-by-step. Just so you know, I don’t consider myself an expert. There are probably a million ways to approach a project like this. But perhaps walking through it with me will be interesting to some of you. I’m going to concentrate on how I write the Kiki Lowenstein Short Stories because I’d done so many of them.

Part I — What’s the point? Or what’s the theme? What’s my goal?

I like to have a purpose behind my stories. An idea or theme or goal. I think of this like the pole of a Maypole because it provides the structure for all that follows. I like to use holidays when writing the Kiki short stories. That works pretty well, because the holiday provides a natural launch date. Holidays give me an easy way to market my stories. And of course each holiday also has its own rituals, foods, celebratory activities, colors, and so on. These elements provide natural points of interest for the story.

I’ve decided that I want to write a story about St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve been noodling that idea around, and I’ve been wondering, “What makes people lucky?”

With that in mind, I googled, “What makes people lucky?” and found several fascinating articles:

http://www.rd.com/advice/how-to-get-lucky

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-miglani/making-your-own-luck_b_3988785.html

As you can see, Mr. Wiseman has identified four principles that define “lucky” people:


1. Taking advantage of chance opportunities.

2. Listening to hunches.

3. Expect good fortune.

4. Turn bad luck into good luck.

So now I have four new ideas that I can incorporate into my story. Any one of these or all of them might be useful.

I can move onto the next portion of my prep, creating conflict. To make a short story work, I need to create friction among my characters.

Any ideas on how I can do that?

To Plot or Not to Plot

I’m 10,000+ words into Book #4 of the Kiki Lowenstein Scrap-n-Craft series. Now’s the time to stop and plot.

Groan.

I’ve already written a synopsis, I know who died, how my victim died, and what’s up. But in order to do my best work, this is the point where I drag out trusty pencil and paper and start making charts. Yep. Good old fashioned charts.

I’ll chart out what’s happening in Kiki’s life, in Sheila’s life, in Mert’s life, in Dodie’s life, in Anya’s life, in Detweiler’s life, in Gracie’s life…you get the picture. I see myself as an orchestra conductor trying to get all those instruments playing together in harmony. Of course, Kiki is sitting at the Steinway grand. She’s the spotlighted soloist. But all the others have their part to play.

I’ll also consider all the comments I’ve collected about the series. What readers like. What they want more of. What they THINK will happen. What they WANT to happen. How they’d like to see my characters evolve. Of course, it’ s my job to keep throwing curve balls. And I will. Still, I really appreciate everyone’s feedback. I’m not so hidebound or so egotistical that I think I have to come up with all the answers myself. I’ll very willing to listen.

In the end, it has to be my creation. But along the way, only a fool would ignore what other invested people have to say about characters they love.

So…goodbye whizzing along and typing on the computer. Hello, eraser and pencil. Odd to think that sometimes by slowing down, you can actually go faster, but it’s true!