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