Guest Post: Constructing a short story by Clive West

Hobson’s Choice and 15 other twist-in-the-tail short stories

By Clive West
Editions: ebook
Published by Any Subject Books (March 14, 2012)
Genre: Fiction

This is a collection of stories whose endings you can try to predict, but you will almost always get it wrong. From the lottery-winner who inspires enmity in his neighbour, to the fraudulent fortune-teller discovering that she has a psychic gift after all, to the down-trodden schoolboy whose ‘daydreams’ reveal a crime which he then uses all his ingenuity to expose, a huge range of characters walk through these pages. Some of them are innocent; others, like the greedy property-developer, border on evil; but most of them are human with all the foibles and self-interest inherent in that condition.

To read these stories is to share in the author’s jaundiced view of the world – a world nonetheless illuminated by flashes of humour, pathos and warmth. You will be hugging yourself with glee at the ‘comeuppance’ doled out to some characters, and wishing you could dive into the story to give a timely warning to others. You will certainly be turning the pages rapidly to see what happens…
~ Amazon Blurb

About the Author:

Clive West is a successful short story writer, novelist and publisher. He has produced a bestselling anthology of short stories which all have a twist-in-the-tail and which is for sale on Amazon. He is a strong believer in the non-reliance upon low-grade authorial devices such as creating a mystery out of nothing and deus ex machina denouements. Apart from writing, Clive runs Any Subject Books Ltd along with his wife and co-writer, Damaris West. New writers are always welcome at the agency.

Links: Website | Twitter | Facebook


Constructing a short story

After an extended dalliance away from the genre, short stories are becoming increasingly popular again. With hectic personal schedules and the hurly-burly of the 21st century world, modern readers like the idea of picking up their book, tablet, Kindle, e-reader to enjoy a complete story without the hassle of having to remember numerous characters, complex plots or who is doing what to whom and why.

I’d like us now to look at the basic limiting factors of a short story in more detail and see where they lead us:

         A short story by its very definition is short (!)

         There must be a complete story within its pages even if it’s part of a series centered around the same characters or setting

         The author must describe the location and the key protagonists in sufficient detail as to bring them to life

Some writers seem to think that a short story is merely a highly-condensed conventional novel or an extremely short novella when it’s neither. Because of the limitations imposed by the three above criteria, a short story takes a single thread and explores it to completion in the space of a few pages. There can be no complexity of plot, diverse parallel storylines, or switching from one exotic venue to another as per James Bond, Ludlum etc. If you are going to write a short story, you need to think tight, compact and bijou.

The knack to writing a short story which your customers will want to read is to concentrate on:

         Creating a few simple but interesting characters

         Choosing a setting which is quickly visualized by the reader and which will not overpower the characters or the storyline

         Finding a story which leads the reader through

         Sending the reader away with something memorable which makes them want to read more of your stories

With a short story, there is a real need to ‘hit the ground running’. You do not have the luxury of long preamble-style descriptions of the characters executed through rambling explanatory dialogue so you have to create a clear image of the protagonists very quickly and without overdoing it on the adjectival front. Likewise with the places; you will rarely have the word count for more than a cursory description giving a generic location such as ‘on the bus’, ‘at the beach’, ‘visiting the zoo’ and so on.

We’ll look at how to draw up plots, construct openings and decide upon endings for short stories in subsequent postings.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge