How to Write the Perfect Short Story

At some point in your tenure as a student, there’s every chance you’ll be assessed on your ability to write the dreaded short story. Narrative writing can be difficult for a great number of reasons, and frankly, the idea of coming up with an engaging short story that manages to convey enough literary techniques within the space of an hour is enough to scare the pants off any budding Shakespeare. To help you stress less as the clock burns away in your exam hall, here’s some hot tips to conquering the art of short story writing.

Write to Your Strengths

This seems obvious, but there’s no point cramming millions of metaphors and alliterations into a short story with an idea you obviously know nothing about – nothing sticks out to markers more than a clunky chunk of waffle peppered with literary techniques. Pick a topic that you know well, and use your knowledge of it to craft an engaging, effective narrative. If you play football, write a fast-paced story about a dire last quarter in a neck-to-neck grand final, or if you work part-time in a café, craft a quirky narrative around one of your real-life encounters with an interesting customer – often, real life is a lot more exciting than the imaginary world.

Draft, Draft, DRAFT!

The best way to get a good grade in a short story is through constant practice, and by constantly revising your ideas, you’ll start to see your writing ability improve tenfold. If you’re required to write to a prompt, such as a question, image or topic provided by your assessor, you should still be able to appropriate characters, plots and suitable examples of symbolism and imagery from your past work to suit the prompt you’re facing. Practice makes perfect, after all.

Read Widely

The best writers – and creatives in general for that matter – are often the best because they consume all types of media to gain ideas and inspiration. For instance, some of the most beautiful analogies and examples of imagery are often found tucked into dusty poetic volumes from yesteryear, and I’ve even read cooking books which have brought words to life through vivid descriptions of taste, smell and colour better than most classic novels.

Of course, writing a story isn’t easy – there’s a reason why authors like JK Rowling and Stephen King are as famous as they are. But with a bit of practice, experience and imagination, you’ll be able to write a narrative to knock the socks off any marker.

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