The best way to get started is by writing a short story. There are lots of short story competitions you can enter that will test your skills. The Australian Writer’s Resource Competition page is updated regularly and lists current competitions found by trawling other sites. Mary River Press Services’ annual competition can be found on our competition page .
The requirements of these competitions vary so paying close attention to the details is important. You need to master the standard narrative arc of a short story before you can then break all the rules. A standard short story is a fictional work that is usually less than 7500 words and includes one plot, one or two characters, a central theme and one setting. The best short stories present an unusual perspective and are rich in figurative language.
There are four main parts of a short story:
- The first part of the narrative arc in a short story is where you set the scene. This is commonly called the exposition. Everything hangs on the start. It must be explosive to catch the reader’s attention straight away. You need to hook them on the rest of the story. There are not enough words to slowly build up the interest. Make your story start with a thrilling and compelling beginning.
- A transition to rising action occurs next usually due to a difficulty or conflict which results in heightened drama. Use this conflict and tension in the story to show and expand the character. This reduces the number of words you need for character development and enables you to be brief with their role in the story.
- A climax is then reached which is the most exciting and interesting point in the piece. In this genre this is often extreme and immediately shows the psychology and behaviour of the character to the reader.
- Finally, there is the denouement where the strands of the plot draw together and a resolution is reached. The story ends.
Make sure you carefully proofread your manuscript before submitting and get help to polish your story. Make a start and good luck!