Among other training methods, writing shorts is one of the tools I use to improve my craft in characterization, pacing and dialogue. I'm not under pressure to create complex plot structures, or twists and turns, or sub plots. I do include those, although on a less significant basis. I use short stories as a self-coaching mechanism, but I have discovered that I really love reading as well as writing the "get-in and get-out" that only comes in condensed fiction.
If you've been slaving away at writing novels and would like to try a quick, gratifying exercise, try writing a 4,000 to 5,000 word short story -- no plot outline, just the idea -- and see what happens. I've been doing this for a month now and I'm excited to put some of the lessons I've learned into practice when I get back on my WIP, book two in the Twisted series.
Here are a few benefits of this practice:
- Dialogue - I've worked hard on matching dialogue with each character, insuring that each voice is unique, real, and bent to create atmosphere, flavor, and texture. It's easy to write in a monotone voice when my characters words are spread out over the course of 70 to 80,000 words, but writing short fiction is training me to improve my vernacular skills in my novels.
- Concept Trial - Another thing I've noticed is that when I brainstorm for short story ideas, I'm actually creating concepts that will work for novels as well. This has been an accidental result, but one that I think will pan out over the long haul. Of the four short stories that I've written in the last few weeks, each one could be developed further into a novel length plot. What's great about this is, if my shorts approve to be appealing to my readers, I will already have an audience that could be looking forward to "the rest of the story".
- Characterization - Characterization is more than just dialogue. Creating varied personalities that respond differently, think differently, move differently and look differently is the fun part of writing. And although I have less time to develop characters in short stories, I am forced to bolster their differences in a short span of time. It ain't hard to show yee har much I ain't one a dem city slickers by de way I tawk. But then again, I want my characters, all of them, to speak to my readers and to stand out as unique and rounded people and dar ain't much time ta do it in a shart stary. And that's why it's a great method for study.
Jeff Bennington @TweetTheBook is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe.