The Unnatural Story Teller

(Image by Rain Bennett @ Unsplash)
  • First and foremost, know your limitations. I was once asked in an interview, ‘What is your greatest strength as a writer?’. My reply was, ‘Knowing my greatest weakness.’ I can’t take a mundane subject and weave it into a complicated, layered story. But I can do the opposite. I can take a complex subject and explain it in simple terms. So that’s what I do in my short stories.
  • Work backwards. For plot-driven genre fiction, ending is everything. It is said that climax is the story; everything else is just a distraction. So think of an interesting climax, and build the rest of the story backwards. As a writer, you already know what’s coming at the end. It’s like taking a child to a dentist. Your job is to take the readers for a ride, but keep them distracted until the ride ended. Decide what you want to hold back until when, and execute it with perfection. This is why I call it building a story rather than writing a story.
  • No Prose? No Worries. What if you can’t write great prose? What if you have a limited vocabulary (like me, in English at least)? Then keep your sentences short and simple. Don’t go for elaborate descriptions, if you lack the skill to do so. (Actually, I’d say avoid elaborate descriptions in a short story, even if you have the skill.)
  • Pen with purpose. Make every word, every line break, every full-stop and comma count. I revise all my finished works at least ten times before sending them to the publisher, each time finding something excessive — which I felt was required in the previous revision — and removing it. Cut the fat, leave the muscle.
  • Indentation is important. This is what gives structure to your story, and makes it readable. I personally don’t like paragraphs that run more than ten lines — no matter who wrote them. So I generally avoid such lengthy paragraphs in my own writings. But indentation is not just about paragraph size. It’s also about emphasis — what you want to highlight and how you want to do it. Use quotes, italics, hyphens, three-dots, question marks, exclamation marks, whatever you need to get the effect you need — wisely and precisely.
  • Write for yourself. Do not try to satisfy everybody, because that’s impossible. You don’t know what everybody likes and dislikes. But you do know what you like and what you don’t. So write to please yourself. There’ll be surely others like you, and something that impressed you is very likely to impress them.
  • Be a harsh critic of yourself. When you’re done with writing your wonderful fiction piece, put on your critic hat and read it. At this time, forget that you wrote it. Does this wonderful fiction piece, as claimed by you-the-author, have anything you-the-reader didn’t like? Make your own mistakes and let others ridicule you — that’s fine; but don’t let them catch in your writings the same faults you always find in others’ writings.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Anil S Royal

Anil S Royal

Short story writer and film maker.