Jun 27, 2023, 05:57AM

How to Write Short Fiction

Want to get rich? Write a bunch of short stories. I should know—I’ve sold hundreds! 

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Taylor Swift writes a short story (OpenArt AI)

Has this ever happened to you? You meet a cool person, start texting them, and then something totally out of the ordinary happens:

u: hey sup

urnewfriend: Hi there! I’m at a combination struggle sesh and nap-in right now, practicing resistance through rest. What are you doing?

Oh dear God, what do you say to this? Do you tell this person the truth: that you’ve been managing your Cleveland Browns dynasty in Madden 2023 for the better part of the past 48 hours? No way; they’ll think you’re a complete loser. Just play it cool and buy some time:

u: nm jus chillin u

You dodged a bullet there. But wait:

urnewfriend: Well, as I just wrote, I’m attending a struggle sesh with a significant napping component. Maybe you’d like to come to the next one with me. They’re very “chill,” so if you’re as into “just chilling” as your text indicates, you’ll have a great time.

No, a thousand times no! A struggle sesh followed by a nap-in? Is this person “straight tripping, boo,” as Eugene Levy says to Queen Latifah in Bringing Down the House? Well… maybe there’s a way you can salvage this awkward situation and get on their good side. Let’s try a different tactic:

u: sounds cool i’m workin on a short story right now

urnewfriend: Awesome! I’d love to read it!

How about that? You’ve caught this person’s attention, which is fantastic. What isn’t so fantastic is that they expressed an interest in reading the story you’ve claimed that you’re writing. Now it appears that you’re going to have to type something longer than a hot text like “jus chillin” or “sup,” a terrifying eventuality you thought you avoided back in undergrad by crafting a schedule of “blow-off” lecture classes in which the overworked instructors didn’t assign papers.

Fortunately for you, I’m here to help. I’ve written thousands of stories—most of which have been published right here at Splice Today—so assisting you with the story of your dreams won’t be a problem. Before we begin, though, commit these principles to memory:

1. When writing a short story, keep it very short. 240 characters, tops. Ever notice how any news article that requires scrolling down or clicking to a second or—heaven forbid—third page is “tl;dr”? Exactly. And given how action-packed the upcoming sports and blockbuster movie seasons are likely to be, it’s doubtful anyone will have time to skim anything besides their fantasy team’s statistics and the latest posts on social media.

2. The best authors write about what they know. This is why former lawyer John Grisham writes about lawyers, former wizard J.K. Rowling writes about trans women, and former Hercules star Kevin Sorbo writes about the word of the lord.

3. The only difference between “best-selling” fiction and “literary” fiction is that the latter contains way more references to esoteric colors, flowers, and fragrances. If you’re going to write “literary” fiction, you’ll need to be unafraid to describe the cyan, ochre, vermilion, chartreuse, fuchsia and perhaps even aubergine shades of every petal on every begonia, orchid, marigold, wisteria and chrysanthemum in the cemetery where the main character’s abusive father is buried. Not to mention the scents and fragrances! So many pungent aromas to describe.

Got it? Good, because it’s time to start typing. Since it’s probably been ages since you’ve written anything longer than a hot text, I’ll just write this thing for us. Even though this is a short story rather than a play, we’re going to work from the five-act dramatic structure laid out in Gustav Freytag’s “Die Technik des Dramas.” First, the exposition, where we introduce our main character and the problem that he faces:

Haden Braden was a pretty cool bro who wore Ed Hardy shirts that were tight around the arms and loose around the stomach. His fave baller was former Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love and his main man in Madden was former Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. He really wanted to chill with this other cool person he knew.

Man, doesn’t Haden Braden sound awesome? In addition to having a name that’s really popular right now, he’s as relatable as they come. Now for the rising action, where the main problem—HB’s desire to chill with this one cool person he knows—is made more difficult by the addition of various secondary conflicts:

Maybe they could hang for a little bit, he thought. However, he needed to finish his fantasy football waiver wire deals before the games this weekend. Also, some of his boys wanted to come over and “get their drink on.”

Poor Haden Braden! With so much to do, will he ever be able to chill with this cool person he knows? We’ll find out in the climax to our masterpiece-in-the-making:

Haden Braden decided he would get up before noon to do some of this stuff. He actually woke up at 12:30, which was still solid. After he picked up Odell Beckham, Jr. and Kenny Pickett off the waiver wire, he sent the cool person a hot text: “sup wanna chill?” “Yah sounds cool,” they wrote back a few seconds later.

Whew! Seemed like he wasn’t going to make it, huh? Talk about a cliffhanger—but thankfully our bro HB managed to dig deep and find the right words. We’re approaching the resolution, although the falling action that precedes it will be no less breathtaking than what came before:

Haden Braden tried to clean up the huge piles of garbage around his place while he waited for this cool person to arrive. He knew his boys would be over later, too. If the cool person was still there, maybe they could hang with the boys as well.

Haden Braden’s on a winning streak, for sure. But will the ending be a happy one?

There was a knock at the door. As he walked over to open it, Haden Braden fidgeted with the flat brim of the backward baseball cap that served notice to the world that he was one chill dude. He took a deep breath and opened the door. “Hey, sup,” he said to the cool person, who was also wearing a backward baseball cap with a flat brim. The cool person entered and looked around. “Cool Peyton Hillis and Kevin Love posters, bro. I’m looking forward to chilling,” they said.

There you have it: a story that’s guaranteed to knock the big red clown boots off your new friend.

You can thank me after you’ve achieved “BFF” status, true believers.




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