Wondering how to write a story in English? Creative writing is not easy for beginners, especially, if you are not writing stories in your native language. But if you are learning English, practicing writing short stories can help you discover new ways to express yourself and develop your communication skills. To some extent, the process of writing a short story or a novel is different each time, but there are certain patterns or basic steps that you can follow to make your story writing easier. In this article, we are going to explain how to write an amazing short story step by step. Keep reading this article.
What Is Story Writing?
Stories have been an essential part of human experience since pre-historic times. But what exactly is story writing and how can you create a great one? Stories tell about real or imaginary events and their length depends on the specific format. Short stories always refer to fiction and they may vary in shapes and sizes:
- Microfiction – from 5 to 350 words
- Flash fiction – from 500 to 1,000 words
- Traditional – from 1,500 to 5,000 words
While there is no single right format for story writing, you can follow a basic structure which typically includes
- The beginning where you need to capture your readers’ attention and introduce your characters
- The middle where you have to develop the action and the plot
- The end where the story comes to its logical conclusion and you should wind it up quickly.
7 Easy Steps to Write a Story
Writing a compelling story is art so we created this easy guide which you can use when writing a fascinating story for kids, a thriller or a scary story. But if you want to perfect your story writing, you should read as many books from different genres written by famous English and American writers as you can find. You should consider them as great examples that will help you learn how genres differ from each other, build confidence in your own writing skills, and develop your own style.
1. Pick a Theme for Your Story
You can’t create a story without any ideas so a theme is very important for the story. But you should make sure that you are not too preachy and that your theme grows gradually out of your story and is not stated in an obvious way. You should try to evoke deep emotions in your readers. Wondering what things can speak to your reader’s heart? They are the same things which probably can move you or me: freedom, justice, love, heroic sacrifice, death, etc.
2. Make an Outline of a Story
No matter how short you intend your story to be, it’s important to make a quick outline and develop a plot. Plots are usually about a struggle or conflict that the main character goes through. Typically, the main characters learn something or grow as persons as they try to solve their problem. The conflict of your story should get more exciting and tense and reach its climax near the end of the story. When developing a plot, you should also think about the setting of your story (time and place where everything happens as well as context and atmosphere).
A good idea is to break your story into a list of scenes that take place in a specific time and place. The scene list will give a structure to your story but you don’t have to follow it exactly. And you can also use a different approach and even write the basic story as quickly as possible, better in one sitting. It will be your first draft completed as a discovery process.
3. Develop Characters
You should know your protagonist and other characters well before you start writing. Your protagonist is the person that centers the story and drives the plot. And keep in mind that your protagonist is not necessarily a good guy but he or she is the person that must make decisions. Don’t make your main character perfect, they should have at least one weakness or a flaw otherwise they will not be interesting to your readers.
You need to imagine more details about your characters that you ever use in your story. You should create biographies for your characters and create your characters’ personas, including information about their age, name, appearance, job, hobbies, pets, friends, family, strong memories, secrets, favorite food, and drinks, etc. All these details will help you know your characters but you don’t have to reveal all of them to your readers. You can only focus on the following main areas: appearance, speech, thought, and action.
4. Write a Catchy First Paragraph
The first sentences in your narrative should draw your readers’ attention and spark their imagination so they would want to read your story to the end. If you want to hook your reader, your first lines should be perfect. Wondering how can you achieve that?
Perfect first lines for your short story may take many shapes and forms:
- They can express the entity of the whole story in a single sentence;
- Catchy first lines are often clear;
- They can reveal a philosophical truth;
- Your first lines can be funny;
- You can surprise your readers, etc.
5. Choose the Point of View
You can tell your story from the perspective of the first, second or third person. You are the writer and it’s up to you to decide who will tell the whole story and how much information is available to the narrator. Telling the story from the view of “I” where the narrator is one of the characters is a good choice for a beginner because it is easy to write. When you tell the story directly to “you”, you make your reader a participant in the action. Telling the story from the third person allows the author to explore the motivations and thoughts of all the characters.
6. Write Your Short Story
Now, you have a great first paragraph, develop your protagonist and supporting characters, create your plot and scene lists. So it’s time to get down to story writing. We all write in a different manner. Some authors write fast and make several drafts and others prefer to write slowly and edit as they go. You are a beginner so you’d better write the whole story as fast as you can and don’t waste time on editing. Even seasoned writers can’t write perfect first drafts and have to revise and rewrite them several times.
Don’t waste your precious time setting up the story but plunge your protagonist into big trouble from the very beginning. Create a conflict which produces tension that is caused by the opposition between a protagonist and external and internal forces and conditions. Build the story to the crisis and find the solution to the conflict. It’s important to stick to the principle “show, don’t tell. Don’t tell your readers about interesting things that happen in your story and change the fate of your character. You should show the seen and allow readers to see the best parts of your story.
Write good dialogue where all your characters have unique voices. It’s important that every character should sound different. Good dialogues are crucial for the success of any story that’s why you need to make sure they are all meaningful. You can use dialogues to reveal the personality of your characters and to express their thoughts.
7. Revise and Edit Like a Pro
When you finish writing your first draft, the real work just begins. Your first draft may have a lot of problems – holes in the plot, scenes that don’t actually fit, inconsistent characterization, etc. You have to revise, extensively rewrite, and edit your story and the truth is that you should repeat this process several times. The editing process may look different for every writer. Most professional writers write at least 3 drafts or even more.
- The first draft is written to explore the story and to get an idea of what it is about. You shouldn’t show it to anyone.
- The second draft is written for making major structural changes so you can rewrite certain scenes, clarify the plot and characters of your story, and improve the key ideas. You can even rewrite the whole story from the beginning if you are dissatisfied with it.
- The third draft is for polishing. When you are happy with the content and the flow, you can examine every element of your story and make it perfect: word choice, sentence construction, punctuation, grammar, and spelling. You need to eliminate clichés, redundancies, and typos to ensure that your story looks professional.
Here are some more points you should keep in mind.
- Create an appropriate and exciting title for your story that will impress your readers.
- Learn the rules of creative writing and break them if your stories require a new set of rules.
- The best way to overcome writer’s block is to keep writing.
- Do not use a lot of complicated words or flowery language if you don’t want to distract your readers from the plot.
- Share your finished work with other people to get feedback and suggestions.
We hope that our easy tips on how to plan and write a story in English will help you create plenty of amazing short stories which you can even publish online. It can be a perfect place to start your writing career and, one day, you’ll be able to write a best-selling book. We believe in you! You should believe in yourself!