What makes a winning short story?

That’s like asking how long is a piece of string. There are endless articles written on this genre – most provide very useful hints in your quest to write the genre, and most as useful as a ball of string. Imagine the uses for a ball of string! chinese-paper-cutting-arts-running-horses2

We short story-tellers aim for one thing. To write a perfect story that will make your readers feel. To bring tears, or make them laugh out loud on public transport. Or angry enough to spit chips. Or for your story to stay in their mind. To indent. Imprint.

Writing Flash fiction is to seek fluid, snappy exposés of the human condition; sensory, uncluttered, a stories that rings with a sense of shared humanity … to me, that is the ultimate challenge of a short, short story. Oh, yes, I almost forgot to add the need for a twist, that ah-ah moment at the end that surprises the reader and the characters. The ultimate challenge for the Flash Fiction writer.

Recently, my flash fiction won the Write Links Short Story Competition. It’s one of my favourites amongst the 52 I wrote for the year-long Flash Fiction Challenge on Facebook. What a fabulous, pressure-filled, exciting year it was for the short story writers on the FF Challenge.

I was thrilled, of course that others loved my story THE LITTLE PAPER-CUTTER OF FUSHUN as much as I do. And also that the judge of this literary competition, well-respected ex-Teacher-Librarian, Mia Macrossan is a past judge for the Children’s Book Council of Australia and President of the Qld branch now. She is no ‘fly-in-fly-out’ sort of judge – she knows her ‘stuff’. And she is a brilliant advocate for children’s literature.

I follow some important ‘rules’ when I write short stories. Finding the perfect story idea requires lots of ‘what ifs’ and a bit of alchemy. When you do find it here are some hints…

  • Focus on a single event, or a small, tight, right issue … one theme only!
  • Limit your characters.
  • Ensure your reader connects with your main character … quickly.
  • Bring the CONFLICT in as soon as you can.
  • Use your senses!!
  • Write them yourself – that’s the best way to learn how to teach the skill to others.

There, that sounds easy, doesn’t it? Said with tongue-in-cheek. Because the less words you have to use (like in PICTURE BOOKS) the more challenging it is to write. But we all LOVE challenges, don’t we?

I’m about to take up another challenge … re-writing thirty of my Flash Fiction stories (for adults) into an independently published (new-speak for ‘doing it oneself’ because trade publishers don’t) short story collection. I’ll add a section on writing winning short fiction too. It’s called EVERY GRAIN OF SAND … a short story collection. It’ll be out later this year both in print and ebook. Keep an eye out for it. 

I have a fabulous editor – Ann Harth, and I’ll be putting myself into the supportive hands of Anthony Puttee at Book Cover Cafe Book Cover Designer and Publishing Services. I have seen Anthony’s work on other books and I like the professional look he gets.

In May 2016, I will be a presenter at the Rainforest Writing Retreat at O’Reilly’s Guest House up on the Lamington Plateau, alongside authors, editors and publishers, Charmaine Clancy, Anthony Puttee, Kelly Hart, and …. check out the photo below! Yes, JOHN MARSDEN. How exciting is that.

rainforest retreat

Have fun writing, folks!

 If you’d like me to visit your classroom, check out my listing in SPEAKERS INK, the speaker’ booking agency.

If you would like to book a WRITER-IN-RESIDENCE stint with me at your school, email me on my website. 

SEVEN TALES chapbook

A new collection of short stories for kids … SEVEN TALES.
A chapbook of seven stories to delight readers aged around 9-11
27 full pages – from folk tales and fables to fantasy, funny and contemporary.
Illustrated by well-known political cartoonist and story illustrator, SEAN LEAHY  

 Here’s a taste of Sean’s illustrations in my chapbook

BOOK IS AVAILABLE VIA MY WEBSITE … or contact me via email.

 

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6 thoughts on “What makes a winning short story?

  1. We are lucky, Dimity! And yes, it is funny to be thinking illustrators even before I’ve written the book, lol. But being a very visually creative person, I can’t help myself. There are so many brilliant children’s books illustrators … and always there is the perfect one for a story.

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  2. LOL, blush, too kind. It’s funny how you are already thinking illustrators. I do too, and more and more publishers are asking for your suggestions at the submission stage, not to be prescriptive but to see how far you are thinking or visualising the story. I do love Sonia’s art, too. And think, in fact, I recommended her for one of my scripts. Every tale evokes different images and styles. We are blessed in Australia to possess so many gifted illustrators.

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