Writing short stories (or, reminding myself I can actually write)

Me do words good.

3 min readDec 19, 2021
Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

A pleasant reminder

In a coffee shop on a rainy Saturday afternoon, I looked over a couple of short stories I wrote years ago and, to my astonishment, I realised I could write really well.

At that time, my writing seemed bland, predictable, and empty. Maybe it’s because I’d re-read the content a hundred times and grown bored of it — but today, it’s fresh. Over the years, I’ve forgotten what comes next. Line after line brought a wry smile to my face and, occasionally, I giggled. That’s precisely the reaction I was writing for! So, mission successful. If only I knew it then.

So what have I written?

The writing in question is a short story called Job Stock, which I’ve spruced up and published to Wattpad. It’s about a guy called Rupert who starts another day working at the world’s most boring stationery store. He recalls that selling pencils used to be fun — but now he longs for more stimulation. Inspired by a secret liaison with his colleague, he musters the courage to rebel against strict Job Stock management.

Here’s an extract:

Happiness FM would continuously repeat three songs: ‘I’m doing well at life’ by The Brave Boys, ‘Nothing left for me here’ by Up and Go, and ‘Love resignation’ by Cindy Post. Cyclically. Repeatedly. Endlessly. Rupert had once or twice heard some other songs make it to air, most notably: ‘I worked in a shop once’ by Time To Leave, and ‘I’m all right now’ by The Rich and Famous. It was good music that would undoubtedly put an end to even the most stubborn moods, but in Job Stock, the lyrics took on a patronising tone that emphasised the sunshine outside and the care-free stride of a passer-by. Rupert knew Happiness FM was one of the reasons time stood still.

Another short story, Gavin’s Home, has already been on my Wattpad page for a few years. This was written as part of my university Creative Writing course and tells the story of four flatmates who squabble over a newly proposed cleaning rota — can they put such a big mess behind them? If you’ve ever lived with someone who’s messy and unpredictable, this one’s for you.

I surveyed the damage; tomato juice on the net curtains, an obliterated smoothie maker, hundreds and thousands in amongst my basmati rice and — oh good Lord — a lone ‘Cheeto’, perched atop an exquisite photo of my beautiful Mother. My internal organs somersaulted. I was filled with an unfathomable rage. I felt like a rocket set to launch. My breathing became erratic. I probed my temples with my fingers, shut my eyes and leaned against the worktop, inadvertently smearing my jacket with spilt mayonnaise. I was ready to scream when — Christ! — an electric guitar made the ceiling vibrate. Jerry was in.

Short stories, good practice

I could probably Google ‘daily writing habits’ and procrastinate for days gathering tips and tricks designed to help me stay focused (ironically) on writing. But that’s all frills. The fact of the matter is, I won’t think my writing is working when I write it and I have to accept that — to me, it’s going to sound lazy and unimaginative — but I must write, regardless.

Short stories are a great way to escape the drudgery of writing about real life (I mean, look at the state of it) and rediscover the fun of speaking through someone else — a character you either love or hate (or love to hate).

I have a short story ‘banked’ that I want to re-work a little before publishing it. The characters are worth revisiting too, time and time again — which is a good way to practice my craft. I really must flex those muscles to keep them supple; read, re-read, edit, and eventually, finish.

I should trust that my voice and my tone will be found and appreciated the way I intend and, if not, who cares — writing is fun.