Telling Your Story with Style and Passion

 Randi D. Ward is a retired, 37 year veteran English teacher from GeorgiaUSA, and a published author.  She was named “Entrepreneur of the Year 2014” in the Education Industry by Worldwide Who’s Who and was profiled in its 2015  calendar. Her other awards include being the 2014-15 VIP Woman of the Year by National Association of Professional  Women, a 2015 Delegate of the International Leadership Women’s Association, a 2015 Top Female Executive, a 2014  Pinnacle Professional Member of Continental Who’s Who, and an elite member of Strathmore Worldwide Who’s Who.  Her current projects in Africa are World Peace Forest (Africa) in Egypt and Africa Nomads Conservation in Kenya.  She  is an honorary president of World Peace Forest (Africa) and the USA Regional Director for Africa Nomads Conservation.  Her book is entitled Because I Believed in Me (My Egyptian Fantasy Came True).

Georgia, USA,

All of us have great stories we can tell and share with others. Some of us do it orally, and some of us do this in writing—whether it is in the form of a novel, a poem, an essay, a blog, a play, or a short story.  For those of you who desire to write a short story but really do not know how to get started, here are some helpful hints that have helped me.

First of all, begin by reading some short stories written by well-known successful authors. Much can be learned from studying their style, their plots, their characters and their development, their choice of words, settings, and use of dialogue. Decide in your mind what makes this a great story, and what makes it unique or stand out as special.  Then record the techniques that were found to be appealing in a notebook for future reference if needed.

Secondly, begin creating your story map.  This will include the setting, possible characters, and a detailed description of them.  Write this information down to help you visualize where the story will take place and what the characters will look like.  You might even decide some personality traits for your characters at this point.  It is important to visualize your setting and to know your characters well in order to make them come alive and be believable to the readers.  It is generally considered wise not to have more than three main characters in the story. 

I chose to set She Only Wanted to Dance, my first official short story, in a familiar place-my home town in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The main character is partially based on me as a teenage girl; the other significant characters are the girl’s deceased father and Dr. Medlock (both fictionalized) with only minor references to the girl’s mother, her sister, her dance instructor, children in the neighborhood, and other dancers.  Too many characters in a short story can be distracting to the readers. In addition, it is a good idea to write about something well known to you.  A beginning writer is more successful if past experiences are used as a model for writing. When more experience in writing is acquired, thinking outside the box for new and unique ideas will become much easier.

Third, create your basic situation and plot idea.  You can always make changes as you write, but you need to start somewhere.  Make certain you have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Decide what problem(s) the main character(s) will face and the obstacles he or she will have to overcome and then how the problem(s) will be resolved.  The point at which the problem is resolved will be the climax so keep this in mind as you write. Try to find ways to make the story interesting as it builds up to this point and remember to end the story in a logical way as well. Following this process will help to keep you organized and focused. This may be time consuming, but if you take these steps seriously, writing your words to tell the story will flow from your creative mind more quickly and effectively. My main character Julia had to find ways to overcome a serious leg injury from a terrible car accident in order to achieve her dream of being able to dance again.

Fourth, even though you are telling a story, a theme or message for the readers is highly recommended.  This is a great place to teach a lesson about life.  Remember the theme is part of the skeleton or framework of the story.  Thus, try to make the story revolve around teaching the lesson or expressing the message to the readers.  After reading the story, the theme should be very clear. The theme of my story was two-fold: never give up and dream bigger to achieve your goals.

The last point to be covered involves the time span of the story.  My story covers a period of four years, but I was careful only to include events related to the main plot and only ones that enhanced the theme. However, the time period can be as little as one hour, one day, or one week. It may be one single event that is momentous in the life of the main character. If this is the case, focus on that span of time only.

In a future article, other important components needed for a great story will be addressed.  These will include dialogue, word choice and imagery, sentence structure and variety, and other grammar related suggestions.  Effective methods to capture the reader’s attention from the very first word and clever tricks to keep them reading and enjoying the story until the last word will be included as well.

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