Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Robin Hathaway's Short Story Tips

My guest today is Robin Hathaway, who writes the Dr. Fenimore mystery series and the Jo Banks mystery series. Both feature medical professional sleuths battling crime in South Jersey and the Philadelphia area. Robin is the winner of the Malice Domestic St. Martin's Press Contest and an Agatha Award for her novel The Doctor Digs a Grave. Besides her novels, Robin has had many short stories published and that's her topic today.  Visit her website at www.robinhathaway.com.


The following tips are just that. They are not rules, but suggestions.

1.  Know your ending before you start writing. This is not necessarily true when writing a novel, in which the ending may evolve gradually as you write. But with a short story, I usually write backward, with the ending clearly in mind from the beginning.

2.  Economy and precision. These two things should be foremost in your mind when you are writing a short story. You must choose your sentences carefully, making each one count. There is no room for lengthy descriptions of setting or characters. You must choose exact details that say what you mean, rather than generalizations. Be precise.

3.  Limit your characters to 3 or 4 at the most. A large cast of characters is unwieldy and confusing in a short story.

4.  Have your plot clearly in mind before you begin, if possible. If you know your ending this shouldn’t be too hard.

5.  Read some good short stories before you begin, by Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, etc. and sample some contemporary authors in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazines. Study how others succeed.

6.  Have fun!

Robin Hathaway


Sandy Cody said...

Good rules ... er, suggestions ... written in the clear, precise language you suggest for short stories.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Robin,

Great to read your words of wisdom.


EF Slattery said...

I'm grateful for these tips, as I'm currently wrestling with a story, so thank you! Gorgeous cover for Sleight of Hand, by the way! :)


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