This might seem a little too basic for some, but as a writer, I've often found myself lacking in focus. Even some of the best writers I know can have a hard time finding a point. Maybe it isn't your style to have an obvious point that you're driving toward, maybe you like to play around for a while before you get there, but it's definately something worth thinking about.
Short Story Tips
Why do some stories truly ring in the mind while others leave you with the feeling of 'what was the point?'. To make your short stories more effective, try to keep in mind these following points while writing:
1. Have a clear theme. What is the story about? That doesn't mean what is the plot line, the sequence of events or the character's actions, it means what is the underlying message or statement behind the words. Get this right and your story will have more resonance in the minds of your readers.
2. An effective short story covers a very short time span. It may be one single event that proves pivotal in the life of the character, and that event will illustrate the theme.
3. Don't have too many characters. Each new character will bring a new dimension to the story, and for an effective short story too many diverse dimensions (or directions) will dilute the theme. Have only enough characters to effectively illustrate the theme.
4. Make every word count. There is no room for unnecessary expansion in a short story. If each word is not working towards putting across the theme, delete it.
5. Focus. The best stories are the ones that follow a narrow subject line. What is the point of your story? Its point is its theme. It's tempting to digress, but in a 'short' you have to follow the straight and narrow otherwise you end up with either a novel beginning or a hodgepodge of ideas that add up to nothing.
"What I like in a good author is not what he says, but what he whispers." ~Logan Pearsall Smith
This is from an article I found a while back on About.com. A very helpful technique that I've gotten excellent results with.
Photographs, which often carry with them an implicit narrative, are ideal story starters. Though I have presented this exercise as for a group, you can easily do this exercise on your own or with a writing partner. Either way, the point of the exercise, as with most writing exercises, is to loosen you up and get you to explore a topic you might not have come to otherwise. For groups, exercises like these break up the routine and build group cohesion.
Time Required: 1-2 hours
1. Each member of the group should bring a photograph or a picture from a magazine to class. (Be sure it's one you don't mind parting with.)
2. Pass the photograph to the person on your right.
3. Spend ten minutes freewriting on the photograph.
4. Use the photograph or something from your freewriting exercise as a starting point for a story. The story does not necessarily have to explain the picture exactly, so long as the picture has in some way inspired the resulting work.
5. Share the stories (either that day or the next time the class meets, depending on how much time you have) alongside the pictures, explaining, when necessary, how the picture resulted in the work.
1. Don't worry overmuch about conforming closely to the photograph. The point of the exercise is to get you started writing -- ideally something you wouldn't have written otherwise.
2. To do this exercise on your own, open a magazine at random and write about the picture you see in front of you, or ask a friend to present you with an image. You can also give yourself the assignment of using an image from that day's mail. (Generally junk mail includes some images.)
3. Don't use something you've written in the past just because it fits the picture. Use the exercise to write something entirely new.
What You Need:
* Photograph or magazine picture
"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." ~Vladimir Nabakov