Welcome to Getting Started with Short Stories

with Ryan O'Neill

Writing short fiction is a great way to develop your creative writing skills in every area, from dialogue and character to plot and setting. As well as being an art form in its own right, short fiction can be a laboratory for you to try out new and strange ideas; it can be a training ground in which you can build up your writing muscles before attempting a longer form such as a novel; and it can be a playground, in which you can have lots of fun. 

As with any form of writing, there are a number of rules that it is generally a good idea to follow, especially if you are just starting to write short stories. That’s not to say these rules can’t ever be broken – some classic short stories break just about every rule in the book – but before writing a story that breaks the rules, it’s advisable to be able to write a good story within the rules. Only once you understand the principles of how a good short story is put together, can you then ignore or change those principles to create a different effect.

There are two keys actions to writing successful short stories: the first is to read lots of short fiction, and the second is to write lots of short fiction. In this course you will find reading recommendations and writing advice, and we will look at the most important elements that make up a short story. Most importantly, we will do lots of writing exercises that illustrate these elements, and that help us see how they work. I have used many of these writing exercises myself, and very often they have provided an idea, a line of dialogue, or a character which have then found their way into one of my short stories.

It will probably take you three to four hours to complete this course; however, I would suggest doing it in stages, and not all at one time. You need to give your imagination (and your writing hand) a rest sometimes! Some of the writing exercises have a suggested time limit: feel free to go over this limit if inspiration strikes, but don’t burn yourself out.

For this course, you will only need something to write with: this could be a notepad and pen, or a laptop, whatever you are most comfortable with. 

I hope you enjoy the course.

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