Writing Short Stories That Readers Can’t Get Out of Their Heads

Writing Short Stories That Readers Can’t Get Out of Their Heads - Robert Burton Robinson

What is a short story?

It’s a slice of life—the kind of story that a friend might tell you about a specific event in her life. It might start with something like, “Back in high school, one time I was having a slumber party at my house and one of the girls was complaining about how her boyfriend had just dumped her for the new cheerleader. The more she talked about it, the angrier we all got. Somebody suggested that we go over to his house and toilet paper his yard. But we had no idea how mean his dad was…or that he had a shotgun.”

Just the facts, ma’am

As a reader, you may never know any of the characters’ last names or anything about their families or their pasts. You might not even know what year it is or what country they live in. Because unless a detail is critical to the story, it’s probably not going to be included.

How long are short stories?

Generally between 1,000-20,000 words, but my short stories are usually under 5,000 words, and the ones I write for TicklyTales.com are under 3,000. Stories of less than 1,000 words are referred to as Flash Fiction.

Stories that readers can’t get out of their heads? Really?

Yes, that’s one of the goals. They might not recall the entire story, but for example, if someone reads my story, Dump Him at Midnight, then the next time they hear a woman talking about having trouble breaking up with a controlling boyfriend, I want them to feel their lips instinctively forming an evil grin as they remember what Sarah did to Nick and Austin that night behind the warehouse.

And after they’ve read my story, Snuffer Agency, if they ever hear about some political operative in Washington being murdered, and that nobody has been able to figure out who did it, I want them to remember Frank Snuffer and his family business.

Make them remember it as something real

Ideally, I want readers to remember my stories as something that actually happened—as though they’re recalling thoughts of real people in real situations. Stories so real and unusual or funny or surprising or shocking that readers will have trouble forgetting them.

I know I do. 😉

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