Basics of Writing a Short Story

Basic of Writing a Short Story

January 25, 2021 by Tambra Nicole Kendall

Quill pen, ink well, books, and paper

When I began writing I started out with articles and studying children’s literature. Gaining a bit of confidence, I submitted one of my articles to a local writing group’s contest. It was the first time I’d entered my writing in a contest before and I was nervous.

I won third place!  One of judges contacted me about publishing my article in his magazine. He was active in Toastmasters International and he had a dynamic presence. A few years later I joined Toastmasters International and it gave me the confidence to speak to an audience about writing and teaching. What does this have to do with writing short stories, you’re asking. Well, writing a speech uses the same skills. You need to be focused, making every word count, have a beginning, middle and end, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

On my bookshelves I have several writing craft books by Jack M. Bickham, a former Creative Writing Professor at the University of Oklahoma. Mr. Bickham was a protégé of the late Dwight Swain.

 Much of the information in Bickhams books still apply today. Years ago, I had the honour of meeting him. He was a gracious and gentle man. If there had been a way for me to take his university courses I would have jumped at the chance. Jack Bickham wrote over eighty novels, and three books for Writer’s Digest Books. Mr. Bickham also wrote The Apple Dumpling Gang which was made into a movie in the 1970s-early 1980s, I think.

Study the masters of short story writing. What story situations do they tackle? How do they create characters you relate to?

Here’s what I’ve learned writing short stories and information from Mr. Bickham. I hope this will give you a place to start. Learning to write short can be a fun challenge.

Tambra’s Short Story Tips

Write out what you know about the characters and the story you want to tell. Go through it and edit out the parts that don’t push the story forward. In short stories you usually find two to three characters because you don’t have the room for more.

Remember this is a short story.  Traditional short story word lengths run from 1,500 (six pages) to 5,000 words (roughly 20 double spaced pages.)

Six pages is going to call for some concentrated, concise writing. Twenty pages still means you need a narrow focus and must making every word count. Some people find writing short easier than writing long. This will take some practice but don’t forget to have fun. I believe writing should be fun and exciting.

When writing a novel, you have the luxury of delving deeper into the GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict) of your main characters and villain, a complex plot with room for a bit of backstory. Flashbacks and backstory slow the pace of your story which is why they must be trickled in. If you’re unfamiliar with GMC I highly recommend Debra Dixon’s book, GMC. I can’t tell you how much it helped me. From her I learned to love plotting.

Drop your character into trouble as soon as you can. But make sure the situation can be resolved in a satisfying manner in allotted number of pages you have available. Rushing the ending will make the reader feel cheated and dissatisfied.

Remember you don’t have time for long passages of backstory so a few sentences to let the reader know. Example: Gina and Dee Dee met at college and Gina invites Dee Dee over for supper and a study session.

Gina opened the door holding her new puppy. “Come on in!”

Dee Dee white knuckle gripped her tote bag and licked her lips. “Can’t. Dog.” Her brain and body were frozen.

Gina frowned and walked back. “A bad experience with dogs?”

Dee Dee nodded.

“She’s asleep. Can you hear her snoring?”

Dee Dee stepped inside and closed the door. “A neighbor’s Chow Chow jumped the fence and bit me.I was three years old. I’ve been scared of dogs no matter the size since then.” She swallowed. “I have wanted to pet a puppy. It would nice to at least be able to do that.”

Gina sat on the sofa and Dee Dee followed. “If you want you try softly petting her with your index finger on her head.”

 Slowly Dee Dee reached out and stroked the Westie’s head. Her fur was so soft! The knots in her chest and stomach loosened making it easier to breathe. She did it. She actually pet a dog.

     In the example I didn’t do a long flashback on Dee Dee’s situation that led to her getting bit. The readers need to care about the characters. Everyone has been scared, so we understand how hard this must have been for Dee Dee.

     Your plot will probably be on specific event that can be handled within the limits of the genre. Give just enough information about the setting so the reader isn’t confused.

    The other elements of fiction writing apply. Adding in the senses, enough description so the reader is transported and can visualize it. Check the flow and pace of your story.

Every word, every sentence counts. Readers emotions, their hearts, must be pulled in and engaged in the story you are telling. Writing short will serve you well if you write longer pieces of fiction. Writing short it forces you to write tighter and more concise. You’ll find yourself getting to the heart of a scene much quicker.

I’ve never regretted started out writing short pieces of fiction and nonfiction.

I hope this post helps you understand the basics of writing short stories. It’s really fun! I hope you give it a try. You might like it.

Hugs to all, Tambra Nicole

Books, pen, pencil, and eraser

My Gift to You

December 23, 2020

Holiday Greetings to one and all!

I’ve been trying to figure out which of my books to offer as a gift to everyone. I don’t offer my books for free very often so if you’ve wanted a copy of my cookbook now’s the time. From December 24th to the 28th you will have the opportunity to download a digital copy of The Scottish-English Texan: 56 Teatime Recipes. So far, the response has been very positive and I’m grateful for all the 4 and 5 star reviews.

My cookbook has a few original recipes included with classic tea time favourites. Included are US and British equivalents for measurements, oven temperature conversion chart, and cooking terms for US and British. Included is a section on Spirited Beverages. There’s a difference between whiskey and whisky (and not just the spelling). There is also a bartender chart for standard and metric measurements for common and uncommon alcohol quantities. We can’t forget the children! There’s a section on cambric tea with cookies and sandwiches to delight kids of all ages.

Click on the title below the book cover to pick up your copy of the book, Thursday the 24th! https://www.amazon.com/Scottish-English-Texan-Teatime-Recipes-Heritage-ebook/dp/B00B76Y7SW

Hugs and blessings, my friends. I hope you find some recipes that will become family favourites.

Happy Holidays!

Tambra Nicole

The Story Magic of Creating Characters

November 27, 2020 by Tambra Nicole Kendall

Open book with magic sparkles coming out of the pages

Writing is an intense, personal experience. To create characters we draw on people we know or have known in the past, relatives, experiences from our youth and those more recent.

Sometimes I deliberately choose a mannerism or attitude from someone in my past in character creation. Other times, the process is subtle. People watching (before COVID) was interesting and fun. I’d listen to the conversation and take notes on how the people acted with each other physically, verbally, and non verbally. All is fodder for characterization and a major component of making story magic. Once a character begins to come alive it sparkles with energy! In your mind’s eye they are becoming more than a cardboard character on the page.

If you’re starting out on your writing journey, please understand that you can’t create a character that is exactly like someone you know. Hard feelings and more trouble than you’d care to have is the result. Instead, you create a character that is a blend of good and not-so-good traits. No one is perfect and readers can’t relate to perfection. Some notable characters that are easily recognised are Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, the Mad Scientist, the lone cowboy/drifter.

As a writer we can use these characters but put our own spin on them. If we don’t write what we love it will appear within the pages of our stories. The reader is cheated and as the creator, we are also cheating ourselves. Explore other genres and study the characters within the pages. What is it about them that catches your attention?

Three dimensional characters touch our hearts. The Harry Potter series, The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, and Louise Rennison’s The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson are just a few characters who’ve taken teens (and adults) on adventures reaching beloved status through the years.

I’m always striving to hone my skills as a writer. I want to give the reader the best story I can. I want my story magic to shine. Years from now, I want readers to say, “I loved Tambra’s characters. I reread her books because it’s like visiting old friends.”

Let me know if you would be interested in a short series on writing topics such as characterization, plotting, or world building.

Hugs, love and blessings! Tambra Nicole

Coffee Time Romance Book Brew Winter Holiday: Christmas of Hope

November 12, 2020

Vintage Scottie and West Highland White terrier Christmas card

I hope you’ll stop by and read the excerpt and if you like it purchase a copy from Amazon. If you do have a copy of the book and enjoyed it, leaving a review is much appreciated. https://coffeetimeromance.com/CoffeeThoughts/bbwtrholiday-christmas-of-hope/

Y’all know that I love dogs and this story has terrier pups. It also has a heroine who is dealing with a recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia. She doesn’t let it stop her, though. No one is perfect. We all deal with something. I think it’s all in your attitude and I try to create characters that are three dimensional and relatable to readers.

Christmas of Hope book cover

Still working on the Rafflecopter giveaway. Should be up in the next few days. Is anyone listening to Christmas music yet? One of our local radio stations started this month playing it and I’ve been listening. When I cook Thanksgiving dinner I’ll do my annual listening to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and maybe some Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who put on an amazing show.

Hugs and love to all, Tambra Nicole

An Unexpected Journey

November 5, 2020 by Tambra Nicole Kendall

I’m writing this because of a very recent event in my life. Not happy about this at all. I’m upset and scared but I’ve got books to finish and publish, books to start, art to create and sell. I have a wonderful husband and a rowdy Cairn terrier. I’m going to do what I have to until I learn more of what’s going on with my body.

On November 3rd I had to go back for a second mammogram, a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. This has never happened before. They found a spot of something. I hope it’s a cyst. Please pray that all will be well. The Doctor and technician said they can’t tell what it is because it’s so small. In six months I return for another mammogram and most likely the spot will have to be biopsied so we can learn what it is. This is a perfect example of why you should be getting your yearly mammograms.

Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbon

The doctor who came in was really nice but before I left she said, “if you don’t want to get cancer you need start eating a Keto diet.” She wanted to know what oils I cooked with and how I cooked. I answered I was doing The French Don’t Diet style of eating, which is basically a form of the Mediterranean diet. Since it the French way has carbs and sugar, I won’t be able to eat like I used to and it’s going to take some research and time to get my freezer, fridge and pantry stocked with Keto items.

About eight years ago I had to have a second mammogram and they found the spot was a fatty deposit. That was the first first time I’d ever had any issues.

Please don’t put off getting a mammogram. The pain is about 15 seconds for each image they take. I can honestly tell you it’s so much better now than when I had it done years ago. You can do this. Schedule that mammogram if you’ve been putting it off.

I’m grateful there are dedicated scientists and doctors working together to make diagnosis easier. I want to thank The Rose in Houston for their exceptional, dedicated staff.

This Keto journey is going to be interesting. I hope y’all don’t mind the occasional blog post about how the Keto is working with recipes.

The Scottish-English Texan: 56 Teatime Recipes

As soon as I can get Rafflecopter set up I’ll be giving away a physical copy of my cookbook with a few other goodies as a thank you for y’alls continued support and giving me the honour of sharing things that I love. I know everyone is busy and when I do blog my goal is to give you information that is helpful and uplifting.

I’ll be doing a contest/giveaway just for my newsletter subscribers in December.

Sending you love and light. Be kind to one another.

Tambra Nicole

If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, please visit my website at https://tambrakendall.com

More NaNoWriMo Tips!

Do you have your word count calendar ready? No? Here’s a basic one for you. If you check the NaNo forums people have created some really great calendars. If you can create your own that’s awesome! As you can tell, I love this writing event and look forward to it every year. The writing energy from it is amazing.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Fill out character sheets on your main characters and the villain(s)/antagonist. The more you know them, the easier it will be when you’re plotting.

Write down what you know of the story.. Write off to the side and highlight or use various colours of pens to and figure out where it belongs such as the Inciting Incident, plot point 1, midpoint. On another page write start writing out the plotting system you use and fill in the information from the story synopsis. Once the plot page is completed you’ll be able to tell at a glance where your story is going and what elements your missing. This is roadmap. A story draft get the idea down with the characters, some brilliant gems will be there with the excitement and passion for this creation.

After you’ve gotten the draft down then put your thoughts into the editing process. NaNo isn’t the time for being nitpicky over every sentence. I use a ** in a colour that stands out to indicate I need to add something in a NaNo manuscript. Example: Heroine does blah blah blah ** this spot needs more research on medicinal herbs for burns; besides the obvious aloe vera**

I hope this short blog post helps you with NaNo. Go forth and slay the editor that sits on your shoulder (at least for November!).

Have fun with NaNoWriMo make new writing friends!

Hugs to all, Tambra Nicole

Two Halloween Parties for Book Lovers

Tambra Nicole Kendall

11 October 2020

Hi y’all,

A short blog post to let you know I’ll be participating in two Halloween Parties on Facebook. The first event is one I’m hosting on the 24th. The second party is for the Gothic Romance Writers Chapter I’m president of. There will be prizes and the opportunity to meet and find new authors to read.

The prizes I’ll be offering: ebook of my cookbook, The Scottish-English Texan: 56 Teatime Recipes and the ebook, Wicked Temptations, a spicy, paranormal romance with magic and faeries. Don’t forget to mark your calendar!

I hope you can make it to these parties. I would love to chat with you!

Be kind to each other, take care and be safe!

Tambra Nicole xo

Get Out Those Kitchen Gadgets

September 17, 2020 Tambra Nicole Kendall

Do you have a Babycakes machine but don’t use it much? I have the one with the interchangeable plates. I like that it doesn’t heat up my kitchen like the oven does. I’m in Texas and the temps are still in the 80s. But you can also make small batches and that’s nice, too.

You can make more than cake pops in them. Why not try a batch of hush puppies? Or Pizza Bites? I forgot where I got this recipe or else I would attribute it to the person. These would be great for a family movie night or game night (like Monopoly or Scrabble).

Cake Pops with sprinkles

Babycakes Pizza Poppers

2 cups Bisquick
2 tsp Italian Seasoning
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 c Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/2 cup Pepperoni, finely chopped
1/2 cup Cooked Sausage, finely chopped
Pizza Sauce, warmed

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine liquid ingredients and add to the dry ingredients.  Fold in cheese, pepperoni and sausage.  The batter should be a thick pancake batter consistency, if it get too thick, stir in more milk until it reaches desired thickness. 

I put the batter into a gallon plastic bag and cut off a corner (remember
there are chunks of meat so the opening will need to accommodate)
 to easily fill the wells.  Cook for 4 minutes. ***A note from Tambra: You might have to cook a little longer than the recipe calls. I always make a test batch of a couple and adjust as necessary.

Pinterest has lots of Babycakes recipes sweet and savoury. Better Homes and Gardens has a Stocky Pecan Upside Down Babycakes recipe. You can find it here: https://www.bhg.com/recipe/cupcakes/sticky-pecan-upside-down-baby-cakes/

With Autumn arriving for some folks here’s a recipe that sounds perfect for the holidays: Apple Butter filled Apple Cider Cupcakes. Take a look here: http://www.pluggedintocooking.com/2011/10/apple-butter-filled-apple-cider-cupcakes/

This Ham and Cheese Puffs recipe looks good. http://www.partyfood2go.com/2011/06/babycakes-ham-and-cheese-puffs.html

I haven’t used my Babycakes maker much but with the weather cooling down a bit I plan to use it more and for making Smudge some homemade dog treats while I have it out. Have any of you made your homemade dog treats in the you Babycakes treat maker? I have the Dog Treat maker and it occurred to me that it was a Babycakes for dogs, so why not use my machine to make Smudgie pupcakes?

If you have one of these treat makers and aren’t sure how to use it, I found a blog post that might help you and don’t forget to search YouTube. https://www.lovefromtheoven.com/cakepops-with-the-babycakes-cake-pop-maker-and-a-babycakes-cakepop-maker-giveaway/

China cup, gold spoon and a pink rose

Now, let’s talk Air Fryers. When I bought mine I wasn’t sure if I would like it or if I would use it much. Whenever my Air Fryer goes where dead appliances go, I will get another one. Stephanie Manley of CopyKat Recipes has a huge variety of recipes (not just Air Fryer). Stephanie can be found here: https://copykat.com/category/type/air-fryer-recipes/. The Blue Jean Chef has some great Air Fryer recipes and tips. You can find her here: https://bluejeanchef.com/reces/cooking-method/air-fryer/

Mini frosted donuts

These appliances are a blessing to a person who has health issues. I have two Instant Pots, the 6 quart and a mini 3 quart. I use them so much I have them sitting on my kitchen counter. Getting an Instant Pot for Christmas was the best present I could have asked for! I make pork loin that falls apart it is so tender. Recently, I made turkey tenderloins and they came out wonderful. Pinto beans come out great, too.

The learning curve on these kitchen helpers isn’t steep. A little experimenting and using a notebook to write down your adjustments is all you need.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how you can get more use out of these kitchen gadgets sitting on the shelf. Have a tea party or a picnic to celebrate…anything you want.

Teddy Bears Picnic

Hugs to all, stay safe, and be kind.

Tambra Nicole

Get Ready! National Novel Writing Month is Coming!

September 13, 2020 by Tambra Nicole Kendall

A minute into November 1 me and thousands of crazy writers across the world will begin NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write a rough draft of a book 50,000 which = 200 pages. It’s free to sign up and there are forums on lots of topics and friendly people ready to help and answer questions. I am one of those people who waits until one minute past midnight into November 1 to begin National Novel Writing Month.

For me it’s been a wonderful and freeing experience. Have you always wanted to write a book? No better time to begin than November 1.

There are blogs and YouTube videos dedicated to this topic. October is also known in the writing community (at least by some of us) as Preptober. Getting an outlines or notes down in preparation for November 1.

If you have a child interested in creative writing, NaNo has a program for them, and teachers who would like to do this with their students. https://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

So many people say they want to write a book. Why not take that first step and do it. The first draft is always crappy, that’s why we edit. The draft gets the story down, the journey of the characters. NaNoWriMo pushes you to write and ignore your inner editor and write. NaNo helped me finish my first 200 page novel.

Pissed about 2020? Put it in a story. Mystery, thriller, science fiction, romantic suspense whatever genre you write in or want to write pour your emotions onto the page.

Now is the perfect time to write a book. Don’t wait for someday. Be brave and join the millions of us who help others see the beauty and wonder of the worlds within the pages of our books. We’re waiting for you. Take my hand…we’ll go together.

Tambra Nicole

Word Count Chart for NaNoWriMo

Listening to my Heart

August 22, 2020

Hi y’all,

I talk more about my writing than I do my art on this blog. When I was twelve years old (in the 6th grade) one of my teachers, **Sherry Miller said she wanted to know what each of us wanted to do when we grew up. Luckily, I wasn’t the first person. As I listened to what the other kids wanted to do it occurred to me how much of a creative weirdo I am. Not one student wanted to be an author and artist except for me.

This simple action revealed the reason why I never fit in. As an adult I embrace the freedom of having a creative mind and soul. Growing up it was okay for me to be good at art, but wanting a career in the creative arts was forbidden. Sometimes my Dad and step-mom would like a project I was working on. Offering words of support and encouragement never came. When I stopped sketching I became depressed so I learned early on not to tell anyone anything.

**Krystal Higgins was my art teacher. She made art class exciting and fun. I wanted to be like her, a free spirit, a strong woman.

I would love to tell these two former teachers that I have fought and slogged through life’s trials to achieve my goals to become an artist and author just like I said I wanted in the 6th grade.

I hope you enjoy my photography and watercolours. They are a work-in-progress just as I am. Thank you for your support and subscribing to my blog and newsletter.

**Denotes Beech Grove Middle School (Indiana)

Sending you love and blessings!

Tambra