Why is it good to try writing poetry? Part 3

RT1-Tangmerewing[1]In Part 1, I suggested looking at the idea of writing a simple three verse poem as the basis and precursor to a story.


In Part 2, I added three more verses and it gave the story a little more foundation.

In this post, I’ll look at the main ingredients needed to write a short story. The other aspect of this, is of course to use the simple poem as a guide for the story’s plot.

I’ve got the basic story in poetic form, but I know even before writing the prose, the story may well alter from the one I started out with. That’s not an issue to be concerned about, because the main purposes of the poem were: to provide an outlet for an idea, and to form a basic structure.

What else do we need to consider?

1.  A decent title, but that is best left until after the story is written.

2.  A hook in the intro. A good intro will start with dialogue or action. I usually aim to start with action, a point of crisis I create within the first 30 words.

3.  If it’s a short story, we should keep the timescale short. It should be set over hours or days; not weeks or longer.

4. In line with the short timescale we should have a single plot line, no deviation or sub-plots to distract the reader.

5.  We are aiming to place a normal person in extraordinary circumstances and then make them react. We can also consider giving the main character an issue to deal with, which changes them in some way by the end of the story. There should be some progression.

6.  We should aim to keep the character count low; four or less if possible. Keep it intimate.

7.  Just as we should aim to have a ‘hook’ at the start to capture our reader, we should provide some back story to say how the character or characters got in the position they find themselves. Again, not too much information.

8.  As well as a good start with the hook, and back story, we must know how and when to stop. When the tale is told; stop. No extra bits and pieces. On occasion one more line might work, but mainly; reach the end and stop. Make sure the main character has resolved the conflict or crisis.

9. Try to use the senses when writing. Through good imagery, let the reader see, feel, smell, hear, what is going on. No flowery descriptions though; keep it brief.

10. Try to keep dialogue natural. How? Short and sharp exchanges are the most natural.

With all that in mind, and the poem, I’ve already written a few short passages. In my next post, I’ll produce a list of new titles that I’ve come up with to replace the working title.

I’ve imposed a target on myself of no more than 1500 words. That will stop me from waffling on, and it will keep the story tight. If you haven’t been given a word count target – impose one.

Once again, thank you for following. See you next time.



H … is for hook.


is for hook.

What do I mean by a hook?

A hook will exist in a variety of writing, from articles, t0 poetry, short stories and novels. It is that magnetic word, or group of words, that grips the attention of a prospective reader or browser, and turns that person into a reader.

My own rule for short stories is to create a hook within the first 30 words. It may go over by one or two, but generally I manage to keep it pretty tight.

Example 1:  Opening lines of my short story, ‘Duty Bound’.

‘Gary felt pain throughout his body.  He opened his eyes and gasped.  A small monkey that had been studying him from six inches away shrieked, and scurried along the high branch.’ (31 words

Example 2:  Opening lines of my short story, ‘Mary had a little gun’.

‘Standing in the remote, disused warehouse; Mary stared through the broken windows.  Her tortured thoughts drifted back briefly, to life before she became a wife and mother.  She had been a different person then. (34 words

When writing a novel, I may not follow the template suggested by the ‘How to …’ books, but I do create a hook within the first 3 – 5 pages. I also create a hook early, and late in each chapter. In a novel, they are better described as cliff-hangers.

I tend not to give the solution to the cliff-hanger too early in the next chapter, preferring in some cases to keep it under wraps for maybe two chapters or more. Some solutions might be kept from the reader for longer, but I make sure the solutions are worthy of such a wait. The key thing is; they must exist to keep the reader going.

A good choice of title, cover, or both, might be enough to capture interest, but the writer must create a recurring interest to keep those pages turning. The story must tease the reader’s inquisitive nature, sometimes allowing the reader to play detective for a while, and then the solution to one issue is overlapped by creating a new one.

Your task as a writer is to entertain and lure the prospective reader into looking beyond the title of the short story, or novel. Tease them into looking at that first page, and then draw them in, line by line, and page by page.

If those hook examples have worked for any of you, those two stories are available on this blog. As always, thank you for reading, and I’ll see you back here for … ‘I’.