That mosquito in the room

There’s a quote from the ubiquitous Anon … If you think something small cannot make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room. That’s how I feel about the process of writing small stories – just in a more positive way than that single mozzie! Small, but with impact.

Short children’s stories are not easy to write (what story is?) but they do have a load of benefits…

  • providing much needed respite from the long, large, difficult Young Adult manuscript hanging over my head – it helps to keep me sane
  • can be written in a short time (i.e. in comparison to above YA ms)
  • you can nut out the plot fairly quickly … straight through without sub-plots, sub-character developments, scene descriptions and settings. Not that you don’t need an appealing main character, a large problem he/she has to solve, and someone or something standing in the way!
  • the words fly off the end of your fingers as they type the ‘video’ playing in your brain
  • and it’s nice to have a smile on the dial while you work, instead of a frown of concentration.

Some tips I use:

  1. Have a strong picture of your character in your head.
  2. Know and feel what your character most desires.
  3. Know and feel the impact of what threatens your character and his/her desires.

Setting is important – done subtly as the plot unfolds. Characters are essential – even the sub-characters … do it through dialogue.

What to write about? This (for me) is the hardest thing – so sometimes I try a little trick to get the creative brain working. Pick out three words from the dictionary, where ever your finger falls. Use these words to come up with a viable story idea. Not all stories work, but every now and then the possibilities tumble from your head. And before you know it, a story is born.

That’s what happened with a small story I wrote called PRINCESS CLOWN (1200 words). It was a bigger challenge because I only allowed myself two random words, but it worked!

Probably the best thing about a small story is you can write and submit any number of submissions that can do the rounds at the same time – a pleasant experience for me – usually my stories are from 35,000 to 60,000 words and while I love the process, they take a loonnnggg time to write.

Do you have a special thing you do to make short stories?

Sharing of ideas is welcome in this neck of the woods!!!  🙂

6 thoughts on “That mosquito in the room

  1. Hmm. I love to write about real experiences that happened to me or my kids as a child, little anecdotes. I sit and concentrate on what worried me most at different ages. eg when I was 8 I was put in a different sporting house to my brother by mistake. I was worried it was my fault and scared the teachers would find out.
    Other times I walk into my kids’ rooms, pick up a trinket, old movie ticket or any old piece of junk that’s lying around and create a story around it. Next to my bed are 2 small jars; one with 2 rocks and a dried up leaf inside and another with hand-written coupons for ‘hugs and kisses’, ‘foot massage’ etc. These are gifts from the kids when they were small and I keep them still. Look around the house. You’ll find stories. If your place has run dry, look around a friend’s house.

    Cheers Angela


  2. HI Sheryl,
    Random word selection, then word pooling is my favorite technique. It is also the technique i was taught by Macquarie University, so it must work!
    Normally our ‘exercises’ involve a theme or topic, then selecting 6 words at random to word pool. This is quite effective, particularly if your story hits a wall.
    Childrens’ ideas as Meryl suggested is also great, i have three young children who often give me wonderful chartacter ideas.
    Donna Smith
    Jelli-beanz Book Corner


  3. Sheryl, I can absolutely relate to this post. My current novel rewrite is so doing my head in, I’ve started working on a picture book ms (the smallest possible story you can write) to give me some variety! I often get small story ideas by flicking through my notebook or sketchbook, and characters or plots jump out at me from there. Writers are also naturally inquisitive people, who store up thoughts and experiences and memories, so I find if you sit down and have a good chat with your brain – tell her you want to write something small – she’ll usually find something to write about 🙂


  4. I agree about the mosquito… nothing worse to stop sleep.
    RE short stories esp for children. I love the change from long novels. Few words, though difficult, give me respite from thousands of words.
    Some ideas… I use the random word pick too. Another one is to choose a 10 word sentence then write ten sentences starting with each word, but making up a story.
    Another good idea is to play ‘what if’ with your ideas. This is good to brain storm if you have someone to do it with.
    I have written some stories (little pic book type) by asking my grandchildren to give me a few characters they’d like a story about. (Once I was given a frog, a cat, a pig and a boat… and I did it and it wasn’t a bit like the owl and the pussycat either.LOL
    I look forward to ideas others may have.


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