Short stories are hard. In less than 7,500 words or less, you have to set a scene or two, introduce characters, establish a plot (and maybe a bit of a theme), and find an ending that leaves a reader satisfied. In this post, I’m going to focus on character development in a short story.
Let’s start with some basics. First, this might be obvious, but limit your scenes and characters. You must strip down your plot to the bare necessity. What scenes are absolutely required to tell your story? How can I design my scene to have as few characters as possible? There is no room for information dumps about setting or character backstories. Start your story right in the middle of a key scene and use the action to give readers hints about the characters.
Here’s the real trick. Readers like to work! They like to make deductions, find connections, and fill in the blanks. It pulls them into the story and gets them invested. They need way less information than you might think to visualize characters and settings. However, you do need to give them something to work with – no white rooms (a scene where the setting is not described), or generic characters. Let me give an example:
The wrinkled, white-haired old man hooked his thumbs in the straps of his bib overalls.
It’s not exactly genius writing, but I’ll bet you have a mental image of this man already. You might even have a face associated with him, even through I only described his wrinkles. Just based on the facts that he’s old and wears bib overalls, you may have a voice associated with him. Readers have thousands of mental images of various people in their heads. Often, they prefer to ‘pull up’ on of these mental images as the characters. The more detailed you are in your description, the less likely it is that they can use one of their own mental images. Save your descriptive writing to eloquently describe important scenery, or even better, exciting action.
You may have a huge, complex backstory about your character, that’s fine. It will help you stay true to their personality, motivation, and dialog. You don’t have to reveal most of that backstory, in fact, you shouldn’t. Think of it as an iceberg. You’re only showing a bit on the surface, but the reader will feel the support of everything below. Differentiate your characters through their actions and dialog. Never explain your character’s feelings or emotions through narration! That will remind the reader that it’s only a story and they just characters. You’ll lose the mental images in their head. Show it with their actions, reactions, and dialog. Make them consistent with their motives. Give them an easily recognized quirk or flaw that ties into the storyline. Maybe they have a fear of heights, or an obsessive love of chocolate, or maybe they like to show off a pretentious vocabulary.
In summary, show your characters through their dialog and actions. Give the reader minimal, yet distinctive clues about their appearance. Distinguish them with their dialog and with flaws, quirks, or motives. In short story character development, less is more, but make the ‘less’ count!
Kevin Kuhn writes speculate fiction and is the author of an Amazon #1 Bestselling time travel novel. He has won multiple independent literary awards. He is a proud member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Kevin lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota with his wife and three children.
I’m thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow by Kevin A. Kuhn! Read on for more details, and a chance to win a paperback copy of the book plus a $15 Amazon Gift Card!
Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow
Expected Publication Date: October 25, 2019
Genre: Speculative Fiction/ Sci-Fi
Ten speculative fiction stories inspired by the original Twilight Zone series, including cautionary tales, horror, science fiction, and more.
In the spirit of that iconic, timeless show, these mysterious and gripping narratives explore parallel worlds, faraway planets, dystopian societies, and unsettling reality.
• A toddler shifts through parallel worlds, changing into different versions of herself. What would a mother do for her daughter?
• A chef finds an alternate food source on a remote world. When the new chef arrives, will he be forced to reveal a horrific secret?
• A twelve-year-old Earth girl is randomly chosen to rule the galaxy. Why are galactic administrators so desperate to stop her?
• Humanity is on trial, annihilation at stake. Can an underdog alien lawyer save us?
• Time seems to stand still as a young boy bikes with his troubled friend. Is the friend causing this phenomenon—and what if he doesn’t stop it?
Explore space and time—and confront humanity’s deepest fears—with Ten Tales of a Dark Tomorrow.
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She says nothing, content to burrow into my chest. I look at the top of her head: thick blond hair, a line of pink scalp at her part. She’s wicked smart for her age, and I’m still trying to get used to that. The doctors have used words like gifted, genius, and prodigy. She plays piano pieces that most couldn’t master at any age. She can multiply three-digit numbers in her head instantly. She reads voraciously and beat me in chess the first time we played. People say she is a gift. I smile, but only I know what she is. She’s my child, but she isn’t—she’s a version, a duplicate.
About the Author
Kevin A. Kuhn is a proud member of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. His first novel, Do You Realize?, won five independent literary awards and spent time as a number one Amazon best seller in four countries. He is also a retired technology executive who currently teaches at a major business school. Kevin lives in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, with his wife, Melinda, and their five kids—three human children and two schnoodles.
Win a print copy of the book AND a $15 Amazon Gift Card! Click the link below to enter!
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Blog Tour Schedule
Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://rrbooktours.com
Crossroad Reviews (Spotlight) http://www.crossroadreviews.com
Scarlett Readz & Runz (Review) https://scarlettreadzandrunz.com/
Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com
Horror Tree (Guest Post) https://www.horrortree.com
Splashes into Books (Spotlight) http://splashesintobooks.wordpress.com
A Garden of Books (Review) http://agardenofbooks.com
The Magic of Wor(l)ds (Guest Post) http://themagicofworlds.wordpress.com
Misty’s Book Space (Spotlight) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com
Didi Oviatt (Spotlight) https://didioviatt.wordpress.com
Life’s a Novelty (Review) https://lifesanovelty.blogspot.com/
The Bookworm Drinketh (Review) http://thebookwormdrinketh.wordpress.com/
Turning the Pages (Review) https://turningthepagesonline.wordpress.com
Port Jerricho (Review) http://www.aislynndmerricksson.com
Entertainingly Nerdy (Spotlight) https://www.entertaininglynerdy.com
I’m into Books (Spotlight) https://imintobooks.com
Rambling Mads (Spotlight) http://ramblingmads.com