Visual Quill Blog

Word Limit? Don't Let it Limit Your Story

VQ Staff - Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We thought we’d give you some tips and tricks for writing short stories this week. We’ve compiled a list from articles around the Internet that have simple, yet effective techniques to help write the best possible short story:

  • Huffington Post suggests to, “Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message”. In short story writing, it is imperative that the writer makes every sentence count. The article adds that, “If you over-stuff your plot by including too many distractions, your short story will feel overloaded and underdeveloped”.
  • An article from WikiHow says to limit the breadth of your story. A novel can take place over a longer period of time and has the time to delve deeper into the setting and lives of the characters. In a short story, however, “The main events of a short story should occur in a relatively short period of time (days or even minutes), and you typically won’t be able to develop effectively more than one plot, two or three main characters, and one setting.”The publication Dubliners by James Joyce is an example of short stories that, at first glance, are intertwined solely by the setting being Dublin. Each story, however, centers around a character who experiences some sort of self-understanding or realization. Though Dubliners was published 100 years ago, the short stories included in the collection are examples on how to narrowly focus on a singular event effectively; a few of the stories take place over the course of only a few minutes.
  • Though you only have 1000 words to tell your story, be sure not to get caught up writing on one aspect of the whole. An article says, “Something has to happen in the story (or at least the reader has to feel as though something has happened). Things like conflict and resolution achieve this effect.” While building the character(s) and plot are necessary, make that some type of action actually occurs.
  • Have you gone over the word limit? An article from NPR states that condensing writing is just like tweeting. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, much as this short story is limited to 1000 words. NPR notes that a hashtag popular in 2011 was #TweetYourThesis. It was a challenge to see how narrowly focused their writing was. Writing a tweet-length version of your story can help you to narrow down your focus if the word limit is limiting your ideas.
  • Writer’s Relief advises that authors “paint your world vividly” in a short story. Word choice that appeals to the five senses is essential in short story writing. The article says, “Whether it’s a bustling metropolis or the middle of the unforgiving Sahara, the setting in which your story takes place influences everything that happens within it. Don’t just plop your characters into a generic town—create your own world and reveal to the audience the intricacies therein.”

How to Write a Short Story
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