We were there to help launch the La Scala Short Story Competition (theme Equestrian & Countryside) and as promised I am posting below the gist of my talk for beginners how to write a short story:
"Anyone can write fiction - it's just a snapshot of normal life with all the boring bits taken out. If you think there'd be nothing left once the boring bits were removed, consider this: the life you write about doesn't have to be your life. It can be the life of...
- the confident/beautiful/witty/rich person you've always wanted to be (but don't choose a real living person; they won't appreciate it and could sue you)
- a historical person, real or imaginery
- a fantasy person - if you are a rider in real life, might your fantasy person ride a unicorn or be a groom for Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged flying horse?
- you, where something fantastical happens - you find Sleipnir in the stables. How do you hide an eight-legged horse?
- invoke the writer's magic words, What if..? and mark all the problems that might occur.
- choose a problem, and decide how you want that problem to be resolved for the person - the character - you are writing about: well or badly - never indifferently because the ending has to matter.
- decide how you want your reader to react: frightened, sad, happy, laughing? This is the tone of writing you will use.
- choose a character and let the reader experience the story through that character's eyes
- ensure that character has a big problem central to the story - wet feet is not a big problem
- be spare with description: use only enough so characters aren't moving in a vacuum
- make dialogue snappy, 2,000 words might seem a lot, but there's not enough space to waffle
- don't just think visually - readers don't want to watch your story unfold, they want to experience it unfolding. Humans have five senses, so make use of hearing, touch, taste and smell as well as sight
- does the story make sense?
- have you covered all the main points: who, what, where, when, how, why?
- is the problem big enough?
- do you feel sad, or frightened, or happy reading it? Is this what you intended?
Then write another story. That's how you hone your writing skills - by practising. Good luck."