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8 Fantasy Short Story Writing Tips YOU MUST KNOW!

Hello fantasy writing family!

Need to beef up your short story writing? Or want to make your next fantasy short story the best one yet?

In this video, I show you the 8 writing tips YOU MUST KNOW to help you do just that. So stick around.

These 8 steps I’m about to share are ones I use in every short story I write, including my book, TWINS OF SHADOW, which is three short stories made into one a novella.

Let’s dive in!

And remember, For the best fantasy writing advice, subscribe to my channel (Abby Arthur) and hit the bell to be notified when I post a new video every Tuesday!

1 Super High Stakes

You HAVE to have super high stakes – and I don’t mean death.

You can risk the character’s life, but that’s not going to make a deep connection between your character and your reader.

Life and death is risked all the time, so take it deeper.

For Example

Let’s look at Harry Potter by JK Rowling. Yes, Harry’s life is on the line because “He who shall not be named” is after him. But is that why we care about him? NO!

We care about Harry because he is an orphan and his aunt’s family treats him horribly, so we are sympathetic towards him. We also want to root for his freedom from their tyranny.

The steaks, therefore, become more than life and death, but the question of whether Harry will break free from his miserable life and have a better future.

Do you see how the deeper risk makes the “stakes” higher? This in turn makes YOU become interested and start to care about the story line? Your readers feel the same!

So the more depth you can put into what your character is risking, the more HIGH your stakes end up being.

2 Awesome Main Character

This doesn’t mean they have to be a superhero figure. It means there must be something about them that’s special

Some Examples:

  • A prince with a disability that makes it difficult for him to talk with people – (I’d like to know how he saves the kingdom despite THAT obstacle!)
  • A blacksmith’s daughter who wants to be a scholar, but instead is forced to learn the skills of the blade.

This special trait can be a magical power in addition to the character’s desires, abilities or lack thereof.

Bottom line, I’m telling you to veer away from cliché. If you’ve read about it before, don’t copy the character idea, give it your own twist!

I what to read what you come up with! Your imagination is phenomenal, so let it take you to the depths of your amazing, not cliché, character.

3 Absolutely No Pointless Descriptions

In short stories, you don’t have a lot of time to tell you story. Therefore, you should not waist your precious word count on pointless descriptions like the color of a flower and the texture of its petals.

You also don’t need to tell me everything your character is wearing or describe ever scar on their body.

Some character descriptions are acceptable. So let me show you an example of good and bad descriptions:

Good Example

“His purple eyes turned to the sky,” could work because it’s super quick and included in the actual text of the story.

Bad Example

“He had black hair and pale skin, dressed in clothes as black as night with a long sword strapped to his side. A deep scar cut across the side of his face. The expression he bore drove daggers into the hearts of whoever saw him.”

This is a chunk that would take up too much space in your precious short story. What you should do instead is this:

  • Describe your character’s physical qualities (hair, eyes, clothes, etc.) in a way that drives your story forward.
  • Give the briefest information your reader needs for the story to make sense.

Here’s how I’d change the bad example:

“His black hair blew in the wind as he swung his long sword towards the demon.”

… and then continue on with description scattered through the story. It doesn’t waist your word count and makes the story smooth like caramel. YUM!

In this area of ABSOLUTELY NO POINTLESS DESCRIPTIONS, what we said about describing a character goes the same for settings.

Don’t spend a full paragraph or two explain what the setting is. Show it as you reveal the epic plot your short story is about.

I say all of that with love and no harsh feelings, btw. Short stories are like a drill, so I apologize if I sound like a drill sergeant here.

Mastering this point will sharpen up your stories and make them much more professional. And you want to be professional! No mediocre here!

4 Use Magic

It may seem obvious, but just in case it wasn’t, I’m pointing it out here.

Have you ever read a fantasy story without magic?

It’s a must in our genera, and if you are labeling you short story as fantasy, your readers are EXPECTING magic, so please, don’t let them down!

On that note, comment below and tell me what your favorite type of magical powers is! Mwahaha! (Evil laugh, why did you sneak in there?)

My favorite power, btw, is invisibility. I’d be so cool to hide whenever I want and move objects to freak people out! (Sorry, evil side coming out again!)

Let’s check out point 5.

5 Don’t Use Too Many Characters

I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but remember, you only have a short amount of time to tell your story. (Hence the word short, right? 😊)

Too many characters will make your story muddy and the fast story arch we need won’t work.

Therefore, shoot for 3 characters, give or take one.

What I mean by that is make your story about 1 character, but you can give him up to 2 sidekicks to make the story. But try to not have more than 2 sidekicks.

Here’s a helpful tip*

If you are writing a prequel to a story with a bunch of characters, choose a friend duo or siblings duo to feature in your short story and make one of the friends or siblings the main character.

Also note*

If you are writing a short stories series, you have space to focus on two characters, but they HAVE to be on the same plot line—no splits here or you’re on the path to writing a novel and not a short story.

6 Know Your Word Count Before You Start

I like to shoot for 4000 words and then I can break it into 4 1000 word parts. I break down why I do this in my video 4 EASY steps to writing a short story. (Go check it out if you need help structuring your story.)

A few notes I want to elaborate on about word count is as follows:

  • Knowing your word count helps your subconscious know what to shoot for when writing the story.
  • Your subconscious is brilliant and will sense how fast or slow your scenes need to be to reach your word count goal.
  • So set your word goal and trust yourself. It will make writing your story easy!

7 Stick With A Few Settings

What I mean by this is as follows:

Don’t make your character travel across the realm and try to hit each city on the way. Again, you don’t have time for that in a short story, and if you did do as such, it would look messy and most likely annoy your reader.

In all honestly, I believe you can feel how many scenes your short story needs, so trust yourself.

But as a rule of thumb if you’re just starting out, a setting could change every quarter of your short story. (Or change every 1000 words for a 4000 word short story.)

8 Close Out the Conflict

CLOSE OUT THE CONFLICT, preferably in a positive way.

There’s a few reasons for this:

  • A short story will most likely have cliff-hanger parts to it already.
    • For example: another character was lost in a fight, and we have no idea what happened to him.
  • Closing out the main conflict will help make up for the lack of ability to discover what happened to good-old-lost character.
  • Your short story will also feel uncompleted if you do not close out the main conflict.

Now for the reason I suggest you close it in a positive way:

Your reader spent their precious free time reading your work. They want to be entertained and experience the rise and fall of the story. They also want to feel like they didn’t waste their time.

If you leave your reader on a bad note, they will be mad at you and probably won’t come back to read another story you’ve written.

You have absolute creative rights to what you write, but remember that the readers also have absolute right to never come back and read your work again…

And dear, wonderful writer friend, we want our readers to come back. Our fans are why we can make money off our work and get to do what we love.

Conclusion

Now you know the 8 short story writing tips for fantasy that You MUST know.

If you want to see them in action, check out TWINS OF SHADOW, which is three short stories made into one novella.

Click the image to download the book for free and use it as a reference.

If you liked this post or found it helpful, be sure share it with your writer friends. And tell me how this helped you in the comments below!

I’ll see you in the next post! 🙂

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