Sunday, July 13, 2014

Some Quick, Basic Tips for Writing a Riveting Short Story

by Jodie Renner, editor & author  

These basic tips for aspiring writers apply whether you’re an adult, a teenager, or younger, and whether your story is aimed at adults, teens, or preteens. If you know of a young person who’s interested in creative writing, share this post with him or her to help them spark up their stories.

Planning your story:

1. Decide on your target readership (audience). Are they adults, teens, middle-grade kids, younger kids? Mainly males or females, or both? What are the main interests of your target readers? Why would they like your story?

2. What’s the genre of your story? What kind of story will it be? A fantasy that takes place in an alternate universe? A romance? A cozy mystery? A suspense-thriller? A western? An action-adventure? Speculative fiction (sci-fi)? Sports fiction? Or a mainstream-type story, with people like you, in a setting you’re familiar with?

3. Where does your story take place? Is the locale real or imagined? Is it in the present, the past, or the future? What season? To spark reader interest, make the setting remarkable in some way, out of the ordinary.

4. Whose story is it? Create a multi-dimensional, complex main character readers will want to identify with and bond with. 

5. Give your character a burning desire - what do they want more than anything?

6. Give your character some secrets, fears and regrets.

7. Give your character a rival, competitor, or enemy.

Writing your story:

1. To avoid reader confusion and frustration, set the scene for the readers in the first few paragraphs with the 4 W’s—who, what, where, and when. Who is this, where are they, what are they doing, and when does it take place?

2. Get into your main character’s head in the first sentence and stay there for the whole short story. Forget about telling the readers the story as the author. BE the character instead! You can use “he” or “she” and their name (third person), or “I” (first person). Show the character’s thoughts, goals, worries, plans, physical sensations, and feelings about what’s going on. That will help your readers identify with your main character and really care about him or her.

But don’t show the thoughts or inner feelings of other characters. That's head-hopping. We only know how they’re feeling through what your protagonist (POV character) notices and perceives—their words, actions, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.

3. Make your character run into a problem of some sort right away or very soon. It doesn’t need to be the main problem of the story, but put something on the first or second page that challenges him and makes the readers start worrying about him. The difficulty or dilemma can be internal, external, or interpersonal.

4. Introduce some opposition, a rival, an enemy, or a nasty villain fairly early, too, to get things moving fast and make your readers start biting their nails.

5. Turn up the heat. Now, give your main character an even bigger challenge or problem—the main conflict of your story. Who or what is threatening them? What do they do to try to solve the problem? Then what happens?

6. Write in lots of action, dialogue, and character feelings and reactions. Don’t spend too much time describing things or places, or explaining things to the readers. Do that directly through the characters’ words, thoughts, and actions.

7. Climax: Have a major battle, showdown, fight, or argument—not necessarily a physical one. Can be psychological or interpersonal. Challenge your hero or heroine to the max. This is their lowest point, their darkest moment, when they have to draw on all their resources, summon up all their courage and determination to overcome the obstacle or make the difficult decision, and resolve the issue.

8. Resolution: My advice is to create a satisfying ending for the readers—let your hero or heroine succeed, defeat evil, get what they desire, etc., but just barely. It’s a really close call! They almost didn’t make it!

9. Character arc: How has your protagonist changed as a result of their recent struggles?

10. Story arc: How has their life changed as a result of what they've just been through?

For more info on writing short stories, check out Resources for Writers: 33 TIPS FOR CREATING A SHORT STORY WORTHY OF CONTESTS, MAGAZINES, AND ANTHOLOGIES (

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor and the award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling FictionFIRE UP YOUR FICTION,  CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as two clickable time-saving e-resources, QUICK CLICKS: Spelling List and QUICK CLICKS: Word Usage. She has also organized two anthologies for charity: VOICES FROM THE VALLEYS – Stories and Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and CHILDHOOD REGAINED – Stories of Hope for Asian Child WorkersYou can find Jodie on her Amazon Author Page, at, and on Facebook. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jodie Renner's Craft of Writing Articles, January to June 2014

by Jodie Renner, editor & author; @JodieRennerEd

A lot of people have been asking for a list of my craft-of-writing posts and other resources for writers, so here's a list, with links (just click on the title) of my blog posts from January through the
end of June of this year, 2014. I've listed them from most recent at the top, down to January 2 at the bottom.

June 30, 2014, The Kill Zone Blog:

12 Essential Steps from Story Idea to Publish-Ready Novel 

June 19, 2014, The Kill Zone blog: Dialogue Nuts & Bolts

June 16, 2014, The Kill Zone:

15 Questions for Your Beta Readers – And to Focus Your Own Revisions

June 2, 2014, The Kill Zone: Pick up the Pace for a Real Page-Turner

May 19, 2014, The Kill Zone:

How to save a bundle on editing costs – without sacrificing quality

May 5, 2014, The Kill Zone: Tips for Loosening up Your Writing

April 7, 2014, The Kill Zone:

 Looking for an editor? Check them out very carefully!

March 31, Crime Fiction Collective:

Are YOU Being Plagiarized, Too, Without Your Knowledge?

March 24, The Kill Zone: Nail it with Just the Right Word

March 8, 2014, Resources for Writers:

Don’t Give Readers a Reason to Reject Your Novel

Feb. 24, The Kill Zone:

Dangling Participles, Misplaced Modifiers, and Other Awkward Constructions

Feb. 21 – John Yeoman’s blog, The Wicked Writers Blog:

Seven Quick Ways to Write Sentences That Sizzle 

Feb. 3, Crime Fiction Collective:

Indie Publishing – Lessons Learned and Still Learning

Jan. 27, The Kill Zone: Fire up Your Fiction with Foreshadowing

Jan. 13, The Kill Zone: Book Contests for Indie Authors

Jodie Renner is a freelance fiction editor, workshop presenter, judge for fiction contests, and the
award-winning author of three craft-of-writing guides in her series An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Captivate Your Readers, Fire up Your Fiction, and Writing a Killer Thriller. She has also published two clickable time-saving e-resources, Quick Clicks: Spelling List and Quick Clicks: Word Usage, and has organized and edited two anthologies for charity: Voices from the Valleys – Stories & Poems about Life in BC’s Interior, and Childhood Regained – Stories of Hope for Asian Child Workers. You can find Jodie at,, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  

Click HERE to sign up for Jodie’s occasional newsletter. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Southern Writers Magazine, ALA 2014 in Vegas, BC Youth Writers' Camp, Fire up Your Fiction for $1.75

Catch-up time! I've been so busy everywhere else - packing up an entire house, moving across the country, downsizing into an apartment, editing, writing, blogging elsewhere (like every second Monday on The Kill Zone blog), and traveling - that I've neglected my own blog. So today I thought I'd better do a bit of updating on recent and upcoming events.

Article by Jodie in Southern Writers Magazine

Great to see an article by me in Southern Writers Magazine, in the July 2014 issue, just out!

Here's a teaser on my article, and you can purchase an online or print subscription or individual issues here:
American Library Association Annual Convention in Las Vegas

I made a whirlwind trip in and out of Vegas June 27 and 28 to attend an awards ceremony and sign books at ALA. What a zoo! Over 13,000 attendees, down from the more than 20,000 in Chicago in 2013 - still crazy busy to me! It took me an hour and a half of lining up just to check into my hotel - and attendees stayed at several other hotels, too! Then lineups for absolutely everything - registration, coffee, lunch, washrooms, book signings, you name it.

One perk was that my book, Fire up Your Fiction, was a Finalist in the Foreword Reviews IndieFab Book Awards, presented there. Unfortunately, it didn't win a medal at their awards ceremony on Friday night, but it's still an honor to be shortlisted as a Finalist. Congrats to all the award winners in each category! And a big thank-you to all the great people at Foreword Reviews who help indie (independent) authors get their books out there. Also, I love how they still labeled my book an Award Winner on the display shelf!

Then on Saturday, I gave away a lot of signed books to librarians at the IBPA booth. I sure hope some of them end up in libraries!

"Spark up Your Stories" Workshop at BC Youth Writers Camp

Came home, got a nasty flu bug that wiped me out for 3 days, then headed off to the BC Youth Writers Camp in Penticton, BC, today (July 2) to present a 2-hour writing workshop called "Spark up Your Stories" to 63 eager young writers, aged 8 to 18. Their energy, talent and creativity was impressive, and most of them didn't even mind sharing their stories!


Fire up Your Fiction on at Half-Price

I almost forgot -- FIRE UP YOUR FICTION is on half-price (so $1.75) for the ebook for the whole month of July 2014 on Smashwords! Here's the link: Use the code provided to get 50% off at the check-out. Thanks, Mark Coker!


I've finally found (a bit of) time to get back to finishing my third book, Captivate Your Readers, which has been 3/4 written for about 6 months, and which I plan to publish in September!

And I'll be heading to the When Words Collide writers' conference in Calgary, Alberta Aug. 8-10 to present two workshops, one on Deep POV and the other on Adding Tension, Suspense, & Intrigue to your story.

Jodie Renner, a sought-after freelance editor, has published two books to date in her series, An Editor’s Guide to Writing Compelling Fiction: Writing a Killer Thriller and Fire up Your Fiction, which has won two awards to date, and is a finalist for two more. Her third book in the series, Captivate Your Readers, will be out in fall 2014. For more info, please visit Jodie’s author website or editor website, her group blog, The Kill Zone, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. To be the first to hear when Jodie's next book is out and to receive links to valuable, timely blog posts, sign up for her newsletter here.