Writing a great short story differs from writing a great feature film script. The requirements are different, such as combining creativity, focus, and compelling storytelling techniques. Here are some tricks to help you craft a compelling short story:
Start with a Strong Idea:
Begin with a unique and intriguing concept that captivates the reader’s interest from the start. Remember, you only get one chance to make an impression; with a short film, you have less time to make that impression.
Consider unconventional or thought-provoking premises that can set your story apart.
Be sure it’s unique and not derivative of someone else’s successful feature film.
Focus on a Single Theme or Message:
Short stories are more effective when they revolve around a central theme or convey a clear message.
Keep your narrative focused and tackle only a few simple ideas in a limited space. Short films don’t have time to examine more than one concept.
Create Memorable Characters:
Develop well-rounded characters with distinct personalities, motivations, and conflicts.
Even in a short story, readers should connect with and remember the characters. Think about creating a role that even a big, famous movie star would be interested in taking on.
Craft a compelling opening that grabs the reader’s attention. Start with a hook, a question, or an intriguing scenario.
Establish the tone and set the stage for the rest of the story.
In a feature-length script, your inciting incident occurs after page 10, but in a short story, you don’t have 10 pages. It would help if you had that inciting incident happen in the first scene while also introducing your story.
Concise and Evocative Writing:
Be economical with your words. Every sentence should contribute to the overall narrative. Remember to show it, not say it when possible. You don’t have time for a pope in water. This means you don’t have time for boring exposition hidden behind eye candy, like seeing a religious leader in swim trunks or a stripper dancing on a pole.
Use vivid visuals and precise words to create strong emotional impact.
Show, Don’t Tell:
Instead of explicitly stating information, show it through actions, dialogue, and sensory details.
Allow readers to draw their own conclusions and experience the story through the characters’ perspectives.
If you are filming for a competition, remember that your actors don’t have much time to remember long lines of dialogue. The less dialogue you need, the better. Be sure the dialogue that you use is impactful.
Introduce conflict early on and gradually build tension throughout the story.
Keep readers engaged by creating a sense of anticipation or uncertainty.
If you want to focus on suspense, use one of Hitchock’s techniques, which he called a “ticking time bomb.”
Control the pacing of your story to maintain the reader’s interest. Use a mix of fast-paced and slower moments.
Consider the overall rhythm of your narrative, especially in shorter formats.
Provide a satisfying resolution that addresses the central conflict or theme of the story.
Leave room for interpretation or contemplation, especially in literary or ambiguous endings.
Dialogue with Purpose:
Make your dialogue serve multiple purposes, such as revealing character traits, advancing the plot, or conveying emotions.
Keep it natural and avoid unnecessary exposition.
Limit Characters and Settings:
In a short story, it’s often best to focus on a small number of characters and settings to maintain clarity and coherence.
Each element should serve a specific purpose in advancing the narrative.
Revise and Edit:
Polish your short story through multiple rounds of revision. Trim unnecessary elements and refine your prose.
Consider feedback from others to gain different perspectives on your work.
Explore a variety of short stories from different genres and authors. Analyze what works well and learn from different storytelling styles.
Choose a title that complements the theme or captures the essence of your short story.
A well-crafted title can intrigue readers and provide additional context.
Remember that brevity is key in a short story; every word should serve a purpose. Experiment with different narrative techniques; don’t be afraid to take risks to make your story stand out. One of the main differences between features and shorts is that in a feature, each scene needs to move the story forward or enlighten the audience. In short, each line needs to achieve that goal.