I read and enjoyed Deborah’s review of Rayne Hall’s Deep Point of View in October, and when I discovered Hall’s entire series was in Kindle Unlimited I gave several a try. My favorite was Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novels, which charged me up to put together a free anthology of paranormal short stories and novellas with some friends. (I hope you’ll check it out — I’m really proud of it. And did I mention it’s FREE?)
Ahem, back to the point. I know everyone’s time is limited, so I wrote up a quick cheat sheet based on Hall’s excellent book. I hope this helps make your own short story attempt a success!
Goal: Your promotional short story needs to represent your novel and brand. So it should:
- Be in the same genre and subgenre. (My example: Urban fantasy with paranormal romance crossover)
- Contain many of the same motifs (My example: shifters, spunky heroines, first person POV, romance with low steam level but moderate sexual tension, focus on intrigue/politics/world-building, action and suspense, outsiders finding their place in the world)
- Elicit the same mood (My example: page-turning, light, romantic, character-driven, action-packed)
- Appeal to your average reader (My example: forty year old housewife who yearns for adventure and romance)
- Be set in the same world (My example: modern USA…with werewolves)
- There should be one main character and no more than four side characters. Two side characters is optimal — one who’s pulling the character toward what she should do and one who’s pulling the character toward what she shouldn’t do.
- Good main characters are your novel’s protagonist (if the story is a prequel) or a side character. Side characters are especially handy for those of you writing straight romance since many readers won’t want to see your novel’s romantic lead in an earlier relationship.
- Use the same motivation checklist you’d use when writing a novel: Who is she? What does she want? Why? What’s at stake? Is there a ticking clock to ratchet up the tension? What obstacles stand in her way?
- Should match your novel as closely as possible
- Look for a single location, especially a “closed room” where the characters can’t leave
- Good settings are unique and atmospheric, matching the mood of the novel
Structure (for a 3,000 word short story):
- Beginning — This should clearly state the protagonist’s problem
- First plot event — Something happens, not just the protagonist being lonely or sad
- Second plot event — Ditto
- Dilemma, danger, or sacrifice
- Conclusion — Does she get what she wants…or what she needs?
If you get stuck and need to be walked through the process in a workshop manner, I definitely recommend Rayne Hall’s book, from which I drew this information. It’s 99 cents, or free with Kindle Unlimited. And don’t forget to check out your free copy of Beyond Secret Worlds to see how we took this idea and ran with it. I’m looking forward to seeing your own experiments here soon.