Short Fiction Stories – The Who in Your Story

When you are writing short fiction stories you are often not given the opportunity to fully explain you character to the reader. There just simply isn’t enough time to get into your character sketch in great detail and in some cases your reader won’t even know what your character looks like or even their name. But does that mean you should spend less time doing a character sketch? Yes, and no.

I say no because it is still important to know everything there is to know about you character. What they like and dislike and how they react in situations is important for developing the story. But it isn’t as important as it would be in a novel. You do not need to do a complete past, present and future analysis of your character and know everything about them. It is only important that you know enough so that you can make your character believable in your story. By no means am I giving anyone permission to slack off on their character sketches. Instead, I am suggesting that the relevance of a long in-depth character sketch is minimized because you will not be able to get into any sort of detail about who your character is and what makes them who they are.

This concept can seem a little confusing at first but hopefully it will make more sence by the end. The first thing that I always do when I am considering the who of my story is to find a picture of someone who fits with the character I have in my head. This gives me something to work off of for building the rest of the character. The picture needs to be detailed enough so that you can get the features of the character and a sense of who they are. Write out a quick list with bullet points featuring the important characteristics that you want your character to have. Feel free to change eye color, hair color or anything else that you want, just make sure you have a character that you are happy with.

The second thing that I do is write out a quick one paragraph description of who my character is. I think of it as a cover page to a resume. A quick life story if you will of the characters past. This could include things like the job they are in, their hobbies, their favorite foods and anything else that would set them apart from the crowd. Try not to focus on one area of their life too much as it could start to get lengthy.

The third and final step is to, sticking with the resume idea, write a paragraph with you characters intentions for the future. You should write down what your character wants to do in the next five, ten and 15 years. This is a step that a lot of people tend to skip because they feel that it doesn’t have anything to do with their story but in reality if you look at yourself closely you will see that every action we take is to get us one step closer to our future goals. At least, that is how it should be.

It is just that simple. This three-step process gives you enough information to write a compelling character into your story. If you have a good set of ideas in your head then this should take no more than an hour to complete. Just remember to do a quick overview for each part and don’t get into a ton of detail. That will only lengthen the process and will have you spending more time than needed on something that may not be too important to your story. Just remember that you are writing a short story and not a novel and you should do just fine.

The next installment in the “W” series will look at the what of your story and make this sometimes difficult part of story writing seem a little bit easier to manage.

David Lawton

About the Author: Short fiction stories are a large part of my life. I spend time every day imagining life in a world of fiction. I have never been published but I have never tried. I pos

Short Fiction Stories – Finding Your Characters

When I start thinking about writing a Short Fiction Story I start by figuring out what it is going to be about, where it is going to take place, what will happen and most importantly who it will happen to. Finding the right fit of character and situation can be difficult, so here are some helpful tips to keep you heading in the right direction when making that all important decision.

1. Write about what you know.

This is the age old saying for any writer, but when it comes to characters it is even more important. It can be hard to visualize how your character will react in certain situations if you haven’t interacted with your character on a personal level. One of my favorite things to do is to watch people. I know it sounds a little stalker like but I assure you it is purely for research and I don’t follow them home. When I am in shopping malls or restaurants or even driving down the road I watch people and see how they behave in the situations that they are in. How do they avoid conflicts? How do they interact with the people around them? Are they shy? Outgoing? What would happen if situation X happened to them?

All this information is helpful in creating a new character for your story. Now when you are writing about a shy person in a situation you will know what it actually looks like to see a shy person in that situation or at least one that is similar. All you have to do is get into the habit of noticing people and what they do in any situation from the very mundane to the extremely tense.

2. You have to see it to write it.

When you are describing your character in your story how do you know what they look like? I often have a picture from a magazine or the internet printed out beside me so that I can reference it whenever I am describing a certain attribute of the character to my readers. How long is their hair? Does their hair cover their eyes? What happens when they smile? Does their facial expression change with different situations? How does it change? These are important questions to know and it can be helpful to base your character on someone you know or someone who you see often in order to pin point these attributes properly.

3. Define who your character is.

What kind of person is your character? What are their inner most desires? What do they dream about at night? What kind of people do they like and dislike? How you define your character as a person will change your story completely because the simplest mannerisms can change a character dramatically in your readers eyes. If you don’t know the inner most working of your characters mind then it can be difficult to show the reader that they are a good or bad person. It is necessary to know everything there is to know about them because you have to essentially become them while you are writing. You have to live their lives out on your computer screen.

Whenever you are looking for a new character for your short fiction stories or even your novel it is important to know everything there is to know about each and every one of your characters. Even characters that play small roles need to be addressed. How would they react to a certain situation? Do you have them reacting properly to the situation they are in? What do their values and moral tell them to do in this situation? By following the steps outlined above you will have a good start in creating your characters. By watching people as they go about their daily lives and learning from them you can get a better idea of what your character will be like. Shape your characters after people you know or meet so you can know their behaviors patterns and their mannerisms. Remember that there are few if any people in real life that are all good or all evil so make sure you reflect that in your character as well. If they are an evil villain then give them a nice side or a hurt side, this will also help you develop and inner conflict with the character and allow your story to evolve.

David Lawton

About the Author: Short fiction stories are a large part of my life. I spend time every day imagining life in a world of fiction. I have never been published but I have never tried. I post my short stories and some writing exercises for everyone to try out. Thanks for taking the time to read my articles/stories.