How I am Designing a Short Story

Step 1: Know the ending.

The story ends with the protagonist achieving her goal of being accepted back into the community, of being accepted into the training programs she needs to achieve the future she desires, and having fixed the device she had found.

Step 2: Explore the protagonist’s state at the beginning of the story, a state that is opposite of where she is at the end.

The protagonist is emotionally and physically damaged from a horrible event early in her life. She is always in pain and is angry at the world. She blames others for her situation. She refuses to attend school, to do her chores within the community, or to participate in the community in any way. She is mean and hateful. Everyone dislikes her because of her behavior and attitude.

Step 3: Know what triggers the protagonist to begin changing.

The protagonist finds a device that fascinates her. The device is broken, but she suspects it used to do something wonderful.

Step 4: Understand how the protagonist begins to change.

The protagonist becomes obsessed with the broken device. She learns what the device used to do and seeks help to repair it. However, because of her past behavior, no one will help her. No one wants anything to do with her. She is told to figure it out for herself. To do that, she needs to learn to read and how to work on mechanical and electronic devices. She needs an education.

Step 5: Determine what the protagonist does to facilitate getting what she wants.

The protagonist works on repairing her reputation. She begins behaving, doing her chores, and participating in the community. Her goal is selfish. She only wants access to the education she needs to fix the device. People are wary of her and her agenda. People resist her attempts to regain a place in the community. She is frustrated in her efforts.

Step 6: Up the ante for the protagonist.

The protagonist finds herself in a situation where, without thinking about her actions, she saves someone from a tragedy similar to what had befallen her when she was a child. Doing this reveals she has a weapon she is not allowed. She is punished. This makes her angry and her response sets back her attempts to regain acceptance in the community.

Step 7: Explore what this situation does to the protagonist.

The protagonist retreats into her old ways, but her eyes had been opened. She begins to see how her behavior affects others and feels regret. She had experienced the joy of doing a good deed, even if she had been punished for it. She begins wanting to help others. She decides she wants to be one of those who protects others. She wants to keep others safe, to keep from happening to others what had happened to her as a child. She wants to become one of the communities hunter/protectors.

Step 8: The protagonist resets her resolve.

The protagonist returns to working on repairing her reputation and to being accepted by the community. She still wants the education she needs to fix her device, but now she also wants hunter training. This time, she is not being selfish. She truly wants to become a valued member of the community.

Step 9: The protagonist works to achieve her goal.

The protagonist struggles with changing ingrained behaviors and habits so she will be accepted by the community. She learns coping skills: ways to keep herself under control, ways to deal with her physical and emotional scars. The community grows to accept her. She succeeds thus taking us to the ending defined in step 1.

This story is the origin story for one of the characters in The Dragon Universe. I tend to be a long-form story teller. When I tell stories they expand into 600,000-word epics. My goal with this story is to create a short story that is only 5,000 to 7,500 words. Wish me luck.