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  • Writer's pictureRosemary Gemmell

Writing Short Stories

It can be very rewarding writing shorter fiction, especially if just starting out. Although the markets have decreased for selling a story, a few still exist, and The People’s Friend in particular is a wonderful magazine for publishing debut writers. Stories are read and accepted on their merit, if they suit the editors’ criteria, no matter how experienced or novice the writer.

My own fiction success began with short stories long before I went on to novels and my first published story, 'Beneath the old Clock Tower', was in My Weekly, another DC Thomson publication. Don’t forget competitions – this story was actually awarded first prize in a competition at a Scottish Association of Writers conference weekend where the editor was the adjudicator!

Now, my fourth collection of short stories, Flowers for Lydia and other stories, has just been published in e-book and print. Many of these were first published in magazines, or broadcast. None of them was in The People’s Friend, although I’ve had a few published recently by them and the latest one, ‘Possibilities’, is in their new Annual for 2023.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when getting started, although not every story might follow every rule. I always recommend reading a few copies of any publication the writer is aiming towards. That should give an indication of the tone and age of readers – the letters or problem pages can also be helpful for that, if they have them.

Short stories always need to have a beginning, middle and end.

  • Begin with conflict, a problem, dialogue, or some major change in the main character’s life.

  • The middle should develop this while moving the main character on to a resolution. If you can manage to show the character changing in some way by the end, that is even better.

  • The end should be short, sharp and concise. There is no room here for waffle or long rambling sentences. Leave the reader satisfied, whether it’s pleasure, surprise or shock, depending on the genre. A good ending can echo the beginning, giving a nice circular feel to the story. A twist should surprise but not be tacked on without relevance to what has gone before.

You can find all the guidelines for writing stories for The People’s Friend on their website. You can also join in their Twitter chat on a Tuesday morning and listen to their live discussions on Facebook on a Friday morning. Hope that helps!


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