Romantic Arcs in Short Stories

Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been writing a lot of one shots lately.

For those who don’t know, a one shot is like a short story, but even shorter- It’s meant to give the readers a slice of life. There’s still a story, but it isn’t always complete, or rounded out.

Because I’m a primarily lgbt romance writer, almost all of my one shots have involved a budding romance of some kind.

Well, short stories have a much different route and format than full novels have. You don’t have as much time to get from A to Z, so sometimes you’re forced to skip a few letters, leaving your story feeling jagged and incomplete.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. There are ways to write a full-length, complete story in a one shot format.

  1. CIRCUMSTANCE

There are ways to force characters into trusting one another. You’ll have to slow down a bit on the liking-each-other aspect ((as much depending on how much they like each other in the first place)), but we all know time is an issue when it come to short stories.

Because you want to give that time to building their positive opinions, you can put your characters into situations that force them to rely on one another. Then when they come through, they realize it’s not such a bad idea to trust one another.

  1. EPIPHANIES

One of my favourite things to do in any story, whether a novel, short story, or one shot, is to give my characters ‘triggered epiphanies.’ They’re regular epiphanies, but not as random.

So there’s something about character A that confuses character B throughout some or most of the story, not so much that they dwell on it but enough to puzzle them every once in a while. Then at one point character A does it again, coupled with a gesture, a double-meaning joke, something with an underlying tone- Something real subtle, right? And then it suddenly becomes clear to character B and they aren’t confused anymore.

Sometimes this makes the other character more admirable, sometimes it reveals a hidden character trait, sometimes it puts together something that’s been missing the entire time. This is a great way to improve your MC’s opinion on a character, and is guaranteed to surprise your audience.

  1. TIMESKIPS

As I’ve mentioned before, time can be a big issue in short stories. Sometimes you feel pressured to cram everything in as tight as you can. You don’t have to do this, though!

Timeskips are an excellent tool, and in short stories, slow timeskips especially. Now, I don’t know if anyone else uses this term, but to me a ‘slow timeskip’ is what I call a passage of time through narration.

Usually timeskips have the little ~~~ or -X- or whatever other fuck symbol we come up with that we thinks looks pretty or quirky but is actually just distracting, but a slow timeskip does it through words.

After that day, things started to slow down between us. We saw each other less and less and he even avoided going to classes. I didn’t know how to confront him, so I didn’t. Before I knew it, it’d been months since we’d last spoken.

Obviously that’s a little rough, but I just pulled it from the top of my head. Anyway, I like to think of these slow timeskips as a loophole- Now time isn’t a problem anymore. This is also good for not adding an unrealistic romantic arc- People don’t fall in love within a few days, you know.

  1. OPEN ENDINGS

Remember how I said one shots are defined as a ‘slice of life?’ Well, this is where that comes in.

Most one shots don’t have the same format most stories do. Novels have the whole introduction, exposition, rising action, blah blah blah, but one shots don’t have that. One shots have a very, VERY short exposition- Less than a page, normally, with the inciting incident within it somewhere -, a slightly longer rising action, the climax making up the majority of the story, and then a resolution even shorter than the exposition. This means open endings are kind of a given.

Now, listen. One thing that’s great about one shots is that they are so damn flexible. I’ve had a one shot last a paragraph long and I wrote one that was 27 pages ((Times Roman 12)). You can do whatever you want with these bitches.

But, as I said, the ‘slice of life’ aspect normally- Normally -leaves an open ending. One shots allow the reader to fill things in themselves. If you’re a detailed writer, I’m not saying you can’t still put in a shit load of details. I’m not saying not to have fully developed characters. I’m just saying that not everything always needs to be explained, and not everything needs to be wrapped up.

There are loose ends, there are questions, there are spaces in between. Leaving an open ending is great for a romantic arc because you don’t have to finish the arc.

  1. SEQUELS

Last thing, sequels. Yes, one shots can have sequels. It’s not common- At all -but you can. It’s called a two shot. There’s even three shots- Although at that point you’re really just writing a short story.

Either way, if you feel the romantic arc isn’t finished and you have this incessant, festering urge to finish it, scenes bombarding you as you try to dismiss them… Stop. Just write, girl. Finish it up. I can say this a million times- One shots are flexible. They don’t have rules, not really. So if you want to add something, go right ahead. It’s all yours.

That’s all for this week! I hope this helped you somehow. If you liked this post, be sure to check out my mailing list to gain access to things I don’t show anyone else, like excerpts that won’t go up on social media and announcements I won’t share elsewhere.

❤ Max

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