Researching and Planning Your Short Story

So, you have an idea for starting your short story. You have barely started to create the characters and setting in your head, but you have no idea where your story is going to go. You either feel stuck and uncertain or all too eager to jump into the story, despite not knowing the ending.

This is where research and planning come in.

The level of research for your story mostly depends on the genre. If you are writing a fantasy story, the research will be different than if you were writing a historical fiction or realistic fiction story. There is research for each genre, but it differs with each one. For example, you would not want to study possible technology for the future if you want to write a historical fiction piece about a newsboy in the 1920s.

Research is necessary to each story, and it is best done before the story starts. You can find a lot of places to research, no matter what genre you are in. A lot of it depends on what aspects of the story you don’t know about. Some research comes in the form of things in the story, like events that have happened or facts about medieval weapons. Other research is more focused on things of the story, such as dialogue, story structure, and creating a setting that works with your genre.

Brianna from StoryPort points out that there are a lot of different ways you can do research for your story, even if it is a genre difficult to do research for, like Fantasy. The researching part can often be different than expected, but once you do it enough times, you will start to find sources you can return to and start each story research with the basics.

But of course, what is researching without planning? Planning is the true creation aspect of the story. You have to start with an idea. Then after you have done whatever research you feel is necessary, you start to write, not on the paper, but in your mind. Your characters start to form in your head and the story itself starts to take shape.

Without planning, stories can turn into messes really fast. You may be tempted to dive right into a story the minute it starts to take form. For some authors, that actually works, but rarely without a lot of practice. Even if you don’t do much planning, you need to at least know where the story is headed.

While planning for books, you base your outline on the major events. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. The best writers know how to position their events around the beginning, middle, and end to make their books flow better. Short stories are different. It is best to keep a short story down to one event so you can keep it short, but also so that you don’t confuse your readers. That usually means one setting, only a small handful of characters, and lots more action than discussion amongst the characters.

Your idea should be a basis for the event. Usually, that means the event comes near the end of the story, but there are a few rare cases where the idea is at the beginning. The buildup to the event should be short, as well as the breakdown after the event. A story focused on a single event should require more planning within the actual event than around it.

You will also want to do a bit of planning for your characters. Nobody likes flat characters, especially readers. Sometimes using the same character a few times in different stories can be beneficial, but you also want to stretch yourself by adding a few more types of character so your short stories don’t all seem like they are the same.

The setting is part of the event, so that also takes research and planning, though not quite as much as character planning. You don’t want to go into excruciating detail about your setting in a short story. That is more for full-length books.

Most of planning and research depends on you and your idea. You can write it down as a quick plan in whatever style you want.  Some authors just keep the plans in their heads until they write it down, but that can sometimes be dangerous as the mind can change ideas or forget them easily.


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