Three Basic Tips For Writing Short Stories Based On Longer Stories

2015 Artwork Short Spin Off Stories article sketch

Although I haven’t seen that many examples of this, one of the things that I absolutely love is when fiction and/or comics writers come up with shorter stories that are based on their longer stories.

A great example of a great writer who did this is probably Billy Martin (who published under the pen name of “Poppy Z. Brite”), before he retired from writing.

Each of his first two short story collections contained one story featuring some of the characters from his first two novels (the short stories are called “How To Get Ahead In New York” and “Vine Of The Soul”).

Plus, although an electronic copy of it used to be available to read online on his publisher’s website up until a few years ago at least, he also published a very rare short story called “Stay Awake” which answered the question of whether the two main characters in his first novel (“Lost Souls”) were lovers or whether they were just friends. I won’t spoil the answer, but if you’ve read any of Martin’s other novels, you can probably make an educated guess anyway 🙂

Shorter stories that are based on longer stories give writers a chance to explore elements of their stories that they didn’t have room for in their longer comics or novels.

They also allow a writer to re-visit their favourite stories, without committing themselves to a full-length comic or novel. They are, obviously, also something extra for the fans too.

But, how do you write these kinds of stories? Here are a few basic tips:

1) Brief introductions: Even though these short stories are mainly intended for people who have read your longer comics or stories, you still need to accept the fact that new readers will probably read them too. As such, it also haa to work as a stand-alone story, as well as an extension to your longer story.

What this means is that you’ll have to briefly re-explain or summarise any important story or character information from your longer works that is relevant to what is happening in your short story.

Although this will mean that new readers will see plot spoilers for your longer stories, this isn’t as much of an issue as you might think.

Since you’re only describing these things briefly, new readers who enjoyed your short story will probably be curious about how or why these things happened. Plus, if they like your characters, then they’ll want to see more of them – even if they know the ending to your longer story.

2) Focus on other characters: Another good way to write an interesting shorter story is to focus on one of the supporting characters from your longer story or comic.

Since these characters should be as interesting (or more interesting) than the main character, but will have slightly less character development than your main character does – your audience will probably be curious about them. As such, they are the perfect subject for a short story.

A good example of this would probably be a short story by Mike Carey that was published in an anthology of zombie fiction I read about five years ago. Since my copy of this book is under a pile of other books and is difficult to reach, I can’t remember the exact story title. But, it was a spin-off story that was based on his excellent “Felix Castor” series of hardboiled supernatural detective/horror novels.

However, rather than featuring another one of Felix Castor’s cases, this story focuses on the backstory of one of the other characters from the novels – a zombie called Nicky. Since Mike Carey has a really interesting take on the zombie genre (eg: zombies still retain their intelligence and personality, but they have no legal rights and their bodies can’t heal themselves) it was really interesting to see slightly more of this in a short story.

3) Fill in some gaps: One of the best ways to come up with ideas for shorter stories that your fans will love is to see if there’s anything in your longer novels or comics that you didn’t really have a chance to explain or explore properly.

For example, you could show a mysterious part of your main character’s backstory that you only hinted at in your original novel or comic or you could show an interesting location that you only had time to mention briefly in your main story. I’m sure you get the idea…..

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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