Short Fiction: 3 Tips To Help You Create Characters Readers Adore

Want to write short fiction?

Not only are short stories and novellas easy and fun to write, you can publish them quickly.

Whenever readers or students approach me about building a mailing list of readers who enjoy their writing, my first suggestion is always to write something short.

(BTW, you can use subscriber magnets to create mailing lists of freelance clients or prospects too.)

A piece of short fiction is an ideal subscriber magnet.

Short fiction makes an ideal subscriber magnet

A “subscriber magnet or lead magnet” is something you offer readers. It’s an exclusive; something they can’t get anywhere else and it’s also a reward for trusting you with their email address.

I know many authors (and writers) find building a mailing list challenging. If you’re writing fiction however, creating subscriber magnets is a no-brainer. Spend a few hours crafting a short story and offer it to your readers.

How do you write a short story FAST?

I’m not a huge fan of detailed fiction formulas, although I do use loose formulas to write quick short fiction.

Many writers find Lester Dent’s pulp fiction plot useful:

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

Dent was a prolific pulp fiction writer. You can certainly apply his formula to your own short stories, if you’re writing action fiction or mysteries, where the plot is all that counts. However, for other forms of fiction, your characters become more important.

I hesitated when I wrote “for other forms of fiction, your characters become more important,” because it’s not true. Appealing characters are vital in all your stories. The more you can create characters readers love, the more your fiction will sell. You’ll find too, that if you manage to create a character that YOU love, you’ll be inspired to write more about that character, and perhaps use your character in a novel.

So, how do you create characters readers love? These three tips will help.

1. Your character MUST get what he wants: failure isn’t acceptable

What does your character want? In Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley will do anything, including murder, to rise above his humble status.

Readers love characters who go all-out to get what they want. These characters are motivated. This makes for conflict, and excitement. Creating characters who WANT desperately is a plotting short-cut. Scarlett O’Hara, Becky Sharp, and Tom Ripley all want something desperately. Becky and Tom will do anything to get out of poverty. Scarlett wants that too eventually. However, for most of Gone With The Wind, she wants Ashley Wilkes.

Action tip: ask yourself, and your character, what he wants. Why does he want it? Remember, your character won’t accept failure.

2. Create a main character your readers adore

Books are more satisfying than movies, because we’re privy to a character’s thoughts. This makes for emotion. We empathize with the character.

Although your main character may be despicable (viz Tom Ripley), when you show his thoughts your readers understand him. They empathize, and you’ll create a memorable character—a character readers remember, even if they don’t adore him.

Action tip: show your character’s thoughts; please don’t label them. Never say that he’s “angry”. Share his angry thoughts. Show his angry actions. You can also use symbols, like weather (a storm) to create an angry ambiance.

3. Create a story takeaway: what does your main character learn?

A character readers adore changes over the course of a novel and over the course of short fiction. Of course, when you’re writing short fiction, you don’t have space for character development, so your character learns one lesson.

Readers share that lesson; they know that as a result of his experience, he’s changed. The lesson is a takeaway.

My writing students worry about showing a character’s change in short fiction, but it’s simple. Create a learning experience for your character.

Let’s say you’re writing a short story; it’s a historical western romance. You’ve created a headstrong heroine who prides herself on her ability to ride and manage animals.

What if the hero warns her away from his horse? Our heroine ignores him and the horse grabs her shoulder in his teeth and tosses her like a rag doll. What does she learn?

She learns a lesson; so do readers. It might be: “appearances can be deceptive.”

Action tip: what does your character learn? Create a scene, as a result of which, your character learns something important.

A short story of 5,000 words can make more money than a 60,000 word novel

New: Your Short Fiction Formula: The Easiest-Ever Writing Process (Workshop)

Are you happy with your self-publishing sales?

If you aren’t, there’s an answer. Savvy authors use short fiction (short stories and novellas) to generate sales and income quickly.

Explore Your Short Fiction Formula: The Easiest-Ever Writing Process (Workshop) now. You’ll be glad you did.

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