Monday, February 20, 2012

The Short Story/Personal Essay

When I started writing way back when I was 14, every story I ever wrote began as a memoir. For about the first three pages I wrote about me before the story took a turn towards the fantastical. Through those pages I learned a lot of who I was, what I wanted, and why I wrote. I learned I could never write a memoir.

What I did learn was that short stories and/or personal essays are a great way to learn about me.

A few tips:

Write your truth. If you’re writing fiction, add a twist to that truth. In my case, I tend to add darkness mixed with the light.

Write with strong emotion in mind. What do you love? Fear? Hate?

Write a list of these fears, loves, events that have changed who you are. Some might just connect and bring about a great spark of creativity.

Write to show an Aha! moment. Readers want to take that journey with you and reach an understanding as you do. If you don't intend to publish the piece, that aha! moment will help you stay sane.

Write about you and add the spark of who you are: quirky, funny, drama queen, nonsensical, clever. It’s okay to exaggerate.

Pull your reader in by making it clear what your short/essay is about. In the middle take the reader through that journey, show them don’t tell them. And finally, the aha! moment at the end. Making the journey worthwhile.

Have you learned anything about yourself through your stories? Care to share?


  1. I've learned that I love puzzles/twists in my story. I always try to take the reader down a certain path, make them think they're going straight, and then bring in an intersection or three.

  2. Great post! My protagonists have a strange way of mirroring my own issues - too funny!

  3. Good advice to keep in mind when plotting out and thinking through scenes of a story.

  4. I have one word blutacked to my desk: Trapped. Every story I write has this theme of people being trapped and escaping.

  5. I feel a bit bad for saying so but I enjoy finding troubles for my characters.

  6. Thanks for your comments. Some great responses!

  7. Great advice! I find writing short stories I like to focus on relationships. I never thought I'd be that sort of writer, but it turned out to be what I love and thus my strength.

  8. Good advice. :-) I think I start with truth a lot, and then twist away.


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