Even though I write shorts, I've never really put a whole lot of thought into how I write them. So, when my wonderful editor, Lill Farrell, posed the following series of questions, I thought it was an excellent time to sit down and figure out exactly how I do things.
How do you craft your characters for a short?
I figure out a general personality trait like arrogance or bravery for each character and then a flaw like arrogance or insecurity. Then I keep that trait consistent throughout the story. Shorts don't provide a whole lot of room for complex characters after all.
How do you flesh them out when you have a word limit?
Rather than add more traits, I add story to explain the traits or have the characters evolve so he or she is not as arrogant or insecure.
What about plot?
I write short shorts...no more than 15K, which doesn't leave a lot of room for complexity. My formula is start with a scene where the hero and heroine meet, add a twist, resolve and conclude.
Do you do things differently than when you are writing a full length story?
Definitely. Since fulls allow more time to develop characters, each character and the plot become more complex.
Which do you prefer to write?
It depends. Most of my romances are short, but I prefer full length for straight science fiction or fantasy though because of the complexity of world building.
Avoid an overly complicated plot. They don't lend themselves to shorts. Lots of twists and turns typically mean full-length. Otherwise the story's not getting the time it deserves.
Capture the basic story and then go back and flush out the details, which includes adding sensory information, descriptions and details.
Consider shorts as a brief snapshot of the characters' lives. For a challenge try writing a story that's 1K or less. It gives a writer an idea of the barest of information needed for a short story.