What’s Your Story?
How would you like to be able to say that you’re an award winning author? It’s a great testament to your writing ability. This year CAG offers a nonfiction article contest and a short story contest at our Coffee & Quill mini-conference.
How do you write a short story? First you need an idea. You might take your idea from something that happened to you or something you wish for. Either way, you must develop a plot, which is a sequence of events in which the characters experience a serious problem.
Start by introducing your characters. For instance, you could have an overworked mother and an active toddler. Describe them a little so your audience gets interested and then present a problem. Show just how frazzled mom is in light of the child’s energy.
Next add rising action. Make something happen that creates tension. Your mom could get a phone call from an old friend that absorbs her attention. While she talks, the curious child waddles out of the room exploring. Even the thought makes my skin prickle.
Make sure your level of anxiety rises as you relate each event in the story. Your readers will yawn and wander off if your toddler climbs into his crib. Should your toddler probe an electrical outlet with his fingers and then discover a nail file, your readers wouldn’t put the story down. Think of ideas to keep tension rising.
The climax of the story will be the moment of highest tension. For instance, imagine a damp nail file moving closer to the outlet. Hearts will be pounding.
The resolution comes at the end of the story when you resolve the problem. Your mother could scream and dash into the room, pulling the child away just in time.
Here’s a sample story using my illustration:
Unable to Rest
Bridget sank onto the bench in the kitchen and sat Benjamin down. Her back ached, and her legs wobbled like jelly. All afternoon she had shopped with her sister for wedding clothes. It was the least she could do since their mom died several years ago. A girl shouldn’t do that alone.
Her son’s energy got the better of them both. If only her two-year-old couldn’t move so fast and so constantly.
“Woo-toot. TOOT. TOOT.” Benjamin held up a pretend pipe to his mouth as he marched about the kitchen.
His mother winced and reached for him. “Not so loud, son.”
He side stepped her arms and headed for the stool, which stood by the cabinet. “Wanna cookie.”
“No. No cookies before dinner. Benjamin Charles Fox, stop climbing now.” She hauled her body up to grab the squirming child off the counter top. “You’re going to fall.”
Once back on the floor, the youngster ran in circles flapping his arms. “I be a bird, momma.”
“What a nice bird you are.” She ran a hand along her neck and angled her head to release tight muscles.
The phone rang, and Bridget grabbed it. “Sophie! I haven’t heard from you in ages. Sh-Sh. Mommie’s on the phone talking. Quiet, Benjamin!”
The energetic child barely escaped her grasp. But the room grew quiet in his absence.
“What? You’re dating someone?” She leaned against the cabinets. “Wonderful. And you said you could never marry. Pshaw! I knew that was silly. Tell me what he’s like.”
Ten minutes later she put down the phone and glanced about. Her heart slammed against her chest. “Benjamin?”
Her eyes darted under the table, by back door. Nothing. She hurried into the living room and her whole chest threatened to explode. There, by the couch, sat Benjamin. He held a nail file in his mouth and pulled it out, as if showing it to her. It was dripping with saliva. He leaned forward and slammed it on an electrical outlet, getting closer and closer to the pair of holes she knew carried electrical current.
Her legs flew across the floor toward him. She grabbed his body and pulled him away, just before he got the file into the outlet.
Her heart racing, she collapsed on the floor, clutching her son, who wailed in protest. ‘No, no! Never touch those. They will burn. Bad.”
She closed her eyes and sang softly in his ear. How could he have gotten into trouble so fast? I can’t rest for a moment.
In summary, as you prepare to write, be sure to add the elements of a story: introduction, problem, rising action, climax, resolution.