Getting your characters into position can be a royal pain. This hit home for me earlier this week when I had six characters and a dog all in front of a house and had to get them all into said house. In real life, some of them would naturally be talking to each other, so I had to work that in, as well.

I only know one good way to do this, and that is to visualize exactly where everyone is at all times, and write down exactly what you see in your mind’s eye.

Of course, it will then have to be fined-tuned. Probably several times. Nowhere else is clarity more important than letting the reader know where your characters are, except to let the readers know who is speaking. (A topic/rant for another post.) Have you ever seen a character teleport from a chair one minute to a bar stool the next? Or from one room to another, or even from one map location to another? Writers call that whiplash. Your readers need to visualize what’s going on as if watching a movie in their heads. So, it’s a good idea to get into the practice of writing it from what you see in yours.

But there’s also a major caution involved with this. Don’t describe every tiny detail. You may write every detail down in your rough draft. Character gets into car, fastens seat belt, turns on ignition, puts car in gear, adjusts sunglasses, tunes the radio, checks mirrors and pulls out of the garage and hits the remote to lower the garage door. Um, no. Character gets in car and drives to destination. The point is, your reader doesn’t see him in his house, and in the next sentence, he’s in the grocery store. You may decide to have him tune into his favorite radio station and get some astonishing news or listen to a favorite song. You may mention one or two interesting or pertinent things he sees along the way. But be careful. Use only details that add to the story itself or to characterization. The rest is filler, fluff.

I admit, it’s a fine line. Notice how your favorite writers move their characters from one place to another and see if you can do the same. And notice what annoys you about how other writers do it and avoid doing that yourself.


Even some famous novelists will tell you they have trouble writing short stories, and some say they cannot write them at all.

Since I have a much easier time writing short stories than novels, I decided to try to figure out why that’s so. Or at least how you can do it yourself.

It may be obvious, but if you’re a novelist, you’re thinking on a grand scale. You fill your story with characters and subplots. And even settings.

For shorts, you need to hone in on probably one or two characters, one problem/plot point, only a setting or two, and forget about subplots.

Timeframe is also different. Most likely, a short story takes place in a short amount of time. You don’t usually wrap up your main character’s whole life in the story. Instead, you use a fascinating incident to point up your protagonist’s good and bad points. Give her a problem to solve, an interesting setting, another character or two to talk to and you’re good to go.

Often mystery writers say they have a problem writing a puzzle mystery in the short form. I agree this is very hard to do, so I rarely write that type of story. You need at least three clues and a red herring or two. You need three or four suspects. And a villain, plus the protagonist. The setting is often important in a puzzle mystery. It can be done, has been done, but it’s very difficult.

I’ve only written a couple of short story puzzle mysteries. Instead I write what are called crime stories. These are stories that, obviously, have crimes in them, but are not necessarily traditional mysteries. The reader may know right from the beginning who did it. There may not be anyone even interested in solving the crime. Other things are going on in the story.

If you want to write short crime stories, I suggest you find several of your favorites and deconstruct them to find out why they appeal to you. With the bones of your favorite, make up your own characters and settings and see what you come up with. You may surprise yourself. If you try this, please come back and let me know how it went. And of course, who published it. Think positive!