Transition from novel writing to short stories

This past week I decided to start working on a new short story. I hadn’t written one in a long time, since I was occupied solely with my novel The Darkening. If I remember correctly, the last short story I wrote was right before I started working on the novel, so it was late May or first couple of days of June; a bit less than 6 months. I figured I’d be slightly out of shape for a short story, since there’s more space to explain things in a novel, but boy was I out of shape!

Not only did I start adding more and more details about my main character’s life, not only did I expand on his thoughts and feelings but I almost ended up writing a completely different story than the simple idea I had in mind. Even though I used the 7 point story system and the story made sense as I outlined it, I reached a critical point when I started writing a scene where things couldn’t get contained in 500 words the scene was supposed to have. I reached 5000 words in no time and I still wasn’t anywhere near resolving the story. If anything, I had opened two more arcs! 😛 If I didn’t stop, what started as a short story would have ended up as a novella and that was not what I wanted. So I had to delete more than half, rewrite about 60%, make a note to cut down on a dialogue that stretched too long, cut down on emotions and thoughts shared by the main character and figure out all sorts of ways to get my point through indirectly and in ways that conveyed more than one thing. Basically, I tried to make use of the rule “less is more.”

Around the same time, I read my first Alan Poe’s work, a short story called Tell-Tale Heart. In that story, Poe uses no more than 5-6 pages to convey a full story with an arc, full characterisation and so many more that I failed to notice, (since I’m a newbie). When I finished it I was in awe. Somehow I had to find a way to convey my story (which at the time was apparent it was going to end up being a novella, and not a short story) in a such a way that it would make sense.

My current draft (the new, rewritten one) sits at 3160 words, which is good. My only concern is now whether or not the story is coherent and if it flows smoothly without too many holes. Once that’s done, I’ll start editing and then see what else needs to be done.

This is the first time I used the 7 point story system and I had no experience with it. It makes sense and I’d like to work with it again in the future for short stories until I get to master it. Perhaps next week I’ll talk about the system a bit more. I’m also thinking of adding a new section with prompts using images. Would you like something like that?

Scene Elements

Ever since I started writing (granted, it’s not that long) I found it easier to break my work down into scenes and work my stories with that in mind. So, today’s topic is SCENES and their ELEMENTS.

1. First of all, any scene should have characters (the driving force behind any decently written story) that readers can identify with. In other words, each reader should be able to find at least one thing in the character’s behaviour that he or she can honestly say ‘that makes sense to me; I would act in the same way.’ If we miss that, then we feel detached from the story and sooner or later we are going to put the book down or at least claim that the story wasn’t nice.

2. A scene also needs to be exciting. How can this be achieved? By having conflict in the scene. Keep in mind that conflict doesn’t mean crisis. They are completely different. An interesting character is a conflicting one and it’s the character’s role (technically, it’s our role as writers/storytellers) to bring the character’s conflict into the scene. If the character is one who values life as sacred and is instead forced to make a choice that will result in the end of another life, then this is conflict. If a character is brought up as an honourable and never act behind the scenes, forcing that character to go against their personal code of conduct to preserve the greater good or the status quo, will result in tension, suspense and ultimately conflict. Which in turn means the scene is interesting.

3. A scene should be clear enough for the reader to know who’s to cheer for and who’s to mourn. It doesn’t matter if later in the story these roles will be switched. All that matters is that the scene will be clear in showing who’s who.

4. It goes without saying, that any scene uses strong sensory details; hearing, taste, sight, touch, smell. Use it all at the right time, in the right amount. The story I’m currently writing (The Darkening) takes place in a world where humans can only live in darkness. Sight is virtually non existent, so all the other senses have to make up for it.

5. There should only be enough back story that will drive the plot forward. This was something that used to plague me when I first started and I think to a certain extent, it’s something that everyone has to deal with as they begin. It’s a more prominent mistake with any of us writing high fantasy, or create new worlds for our stories. The rule ‘avoid infodump’ should always be in our minds with this one.

6. It’s vital to have some kind of foreshadowing going on, if not at every scene, certainly at those that are more vital in showing us things about the characters or the plot. Don’t overdo it though, cause then you end up infodumping and the reader may get bored.

7. Do I need to say anything about author intrusion? I think not. Points 5 and 6 are somewhat related to one another by the blunt intrusions we often as writers/storytellers make. So no author intrusions. Avoid things like ‘and as it’s known, crocodiles are vicious killers’ (sounds, terrible, doesn’t it?)

8. A scene becomes more interesting if we guide the reader through a familiar setting, by showing the things that are unusual. There’s hardly anything strange or unusual in a bedroom but what if the character was to enter such a room and see that the bed cover is creased and messed up at one side? Something happened there and we just showed it to the reader.

9. I had read somewhere that when describing a scene it’s best to show the important aspects of a scene first and then the less important ones. It makes sense but I think this may come down more to how each writer handles that. One thing for sure is that the way we handle this thing has to be consistent.

10. A scene should have turning points for a character in the dramatic action, as well as the character’s emotional development. Have a character that appears to be selfish, do the right thing, after the character has fought with himself inside.

If you know of any other elements for a scene that don’t fit in the above, please comment below.

An excerpt

Hello all!

I figured today would be a good time to post a small excerpt from one of the two stories I’m currently working on. PLEASE NOTE: what I’m about to post is a pre-draft meaning if I was asked to submit a draft of this work somewhere, it would have to undergo some sort of fine tuning to be presentable. As you will see, there are a bunch of inconsistencies in it (different styles of writing, different character voice, wrong pacing and of course a great deal of filter words) and of course the ever-existing language barrier issue. By no means this is supposed to be an end result or a finished product. Hopefully, next week I will be able to present you with a finished and published product. Feel free to critique keeping in mind that it’s a pre-draft work.

This scene is taken from a larger one where the main character of that chapter (Jalea) escapes with the help of her soldiers. The setting is medieval fantasy and it’s an action scene, so there aren’t many thoughts and emotions. Here goes.


They sped down broad avenues until they reached the gates of the Great Divider; the place where history mentioned all those who had drowned each uprising in a sea of blood. Just like the sergeant had said, the gates were open and waiting for them.
Jalea’s heart raced when she saw the guards on the gatehouse. She didn’t trust anything from this city. Her sergeant had placed his trust on the money he paid; that it would be enough for them to escape but to her it seemed as if he had forgotten they were in a viper’s nest.
Any moment, she thought. The gates will close and we will be trapped. My men will die for my folly. The only thing that kept her in touch with reality was the isochronous beating the horses’ hooves made on the paved road. Her breathing caught in her throat. She tightened her grip on the reins, felt the rough leather against her skin.
And then the shadow of the gatehouse was over her head. In less than a heartbeat, they left it behind them. She exhaled a sigh of relief and her muscles relaxed, as the first barrier was behind them.


Eventually, they reached the Main Road, a broader and far filthier version of the avenues of the upper city and they were able to pick up pace again.
She tried hard to make up any sound coming from the palace over the snorts and galloping the horses made but failed to hear anything. Just a little longer. Just a little more before they find the gagged guards, she thought.
Then the dark gatehouse entered her field of view, its doors open and the land – golden from the grain fields that stretched beyond it. A thin tear line streaked the end of her eyes as she let out a relieved gasp. It stood before them only a few tens of yards, welcoming them, bidding them to cross it.
And then the bells tolled. First one of them – the cathedral, she thought – then another mimicked it; then another one and before she had drawn a breath she thought the entire upper city’s bell rang.
The guards at the gates looked up at the palace – the ringing had taken them all out of their laziness – then at the speeding riders. They scrambled to place themselves in front of the gate, all three of them, with their spears and halberds.
Jalea saw them getting lowered progressively, saw the sun’s gleam sliding across their surface and she held her breath.
She glimpsed the fear in the guard’s eyes as he stood against a wall of trampling muscles twice his size, charging straight at him. One of her men’s foot stretched and caught the guard squarely on the face, blood and teeth landing on the ground.
A yell from her right made her turn her head to that direction, only a moment too late. She witnessed the descending shadow of the rider next to her, followed by a desperate neigh full of pain and agony. She stretched her head as far as she could and saw another one of her riders coming crushing down on the one that had fallen half a heartbeat before. Rider and horse tumbled in the air and landed with the man’s head first and the horse on top of him. A few feet away from them was the third guard’s body, trampled, his face marred by mud and blood. She closed her eyes and wept for her men.
And then the sun filled her with that strange and somehow blinding red darkness, as the sun shone through her shut eyelids; sun from everywhere. They were out of the city. Behind them the ringing bells carried the message loud and clear; seize them, kill them.

Feel free to comment below but keep in mind this is work in progress.