How To Write Short Stories for Adults – The Mark Beneke Way

how to write short stories for adults, short stories, and short fiction reads
My take on how to write short stories, short stories for adults and short fiction stories

How To Write Short Stories for Adults

Short stories for adults are extremely fun to write. They allow you to explore all the different areas of your mind and analyze the psychology of the people around you. They are grittier and more realistic short stories that can be more relatable as they take on struggles that we personally deal with. 

Writing both short fiction reads or short non-fiction, you’d be able to create a world of your making. There is a beauty behind writing short fiction reads as they give you control of everything within the world you create. There are still rules that everything has to abide by unless of course, you are purposely creating a world without rules, which is even then a rule of its own, but those rules are of your making.

Short stories for adults also allow you to delve into someone’s journey and enjoy everything they have to offer without having to invest a ton of time. You are in and out in time for some video games.

Who Am I to Counsel You on Writing Short Stories for Adults?

The one and only Mark Beneke…duh. Actually, I’m pretty sure that there’s plenty of other people by that name in the world. There are over 7 billion people out there…

I’ve been obsessed with stories since I was a wee one. It started off more with movies and shows as I grew up watching everything without a filter (maybe that’s why I’m so fucked up in the head). I was always a reader too, but I hit a phase when I stopped reading as much. I wrote a lot of short stories through high school, all with adult themes. At first, I thought I wanted to direct movies, but when I went to film school I quickly realized that I hated being on set.

I started taking more writing classes. Classes for movie scripts, video games, novels, and short stories but still continued on to finish film school. These classes forced me to keep writing and taught me a lot about how NOT to write. We would pick apart each other’s short stories like it was the bones of the Thanksgiving turkey. This was great, but I never felt it did much past that. 

What taught me most was constantly reading short stories for adults, short fiction reads, long novels, and movie scripts. Watching television shows and movies helped tremendously as well. The clear formulas that most stories follow became very apparent and found it interesting that they were not taught much in school.

I am not a polished writer that can speak about technical shit like writing better prose or creating impactful themes. If you want that, you should take some classes, but just keep in mind what I said earlier. I can write a cohesive story in the first draft and make characters that will be memorable. I can guide you to teach yourself to make characters of your own that you’ll love to hate.

Whether you like my free short stories and my free novels or not, it doesn’t matter. I’m here to help you start writing the short stories for adults that you want to write.

Let’s Talk About Short Fiction Reads

Let me be very transparent. I can’t help much if you intend on writing non-fiction stories. 

Everything I author is short fiction stories like horror, sci-fi, fantasy, or the like. I also write the same genres with my fiction novels. Side note, I am currently working on a sci-fi horror novel in English. I should have the first draft done by the end of this year. 

Much of what I will tell you can be applied to both fiction stories and non-fiction. They both require you to tell a story and the procedure to write them should be the same. However, non-fiction may require you to go through a research phase as you dig for facts. In the end, people still want to hear stories that will keep them engaged. Facts or not, you will need some fluff.

This is where I can help you. 

Why I Write Short Stories The Mark Beneke Way

I strongly believe that anyone can master anything they attempt. This means that with enough time and experience writing, you can become a master author as well. 

I also believe that there are people who are naturally gifted in certain areas. These gifted individuals could surpass the bar of those who have mastered anything. 

Think of it as a ladder. When you first start writing short stories for adults, you’re barely able to get up to the first step. As you keep writing, you climb higher and higher until you finally reach the top of your ladder. Over to your right is Joe Abercrombie, the grand-fucking master. He’s been climbing the same amount of time as you but he’s higher than you because his ladder is bigger. 

Your writing ability may have a higher ceiling cap than others if you are naturally gifted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be beaten. Someone with a strong work ethic will always outdo someone with sheer ability.

One of my favorite quotes on writing is by Stephen King. 

“Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

You can complain about writer’s block, about waiting for the right moment when you will just know that it’s the right thing to write, or you can just sit down and start writing. 

I created my method of writing to help me from continuing to make excuses as to why I wasn’t writing. What I needed was a pattern that I could stay consistent with, one that worked for me specifically. 

Recently, I retired at 29 years old. Before that, I was still working full time and would manage to get in my pages every day. I realized that it was just like the gym. If I went 2-3 times a week, I would end up never going and I feel like shit about it. When I made it a daily habit for a shorter amount of time, it became easy. I began seeing a lot more results. 

So I took the same approach to writing.

The Approach I Take When Writing Short Stories for Adults

The ideas that I get for my next online short stories come at random times. Sometimes they come while I’m playing a video game and other times while I’m driving. There are times that I wake up in the middle of the night and keep cursing myself for not being able to sleep better because the fucking stupidest idea popped into my head and I had to write it down. 

And that’s where it starts. Stupid ideas. 

Stupid Ideas Lead To Great Short Stories

A story will never just pop into your head fully formed. It requires work on your part. 

It will start off with a funny and inappropriate joke you heard a friend say while you were shopping at the grocery store. Then you came back to the joke and realized that it would be a pretty fucked up joke to make in the middle of a civil war in a third-world country where a group of civilians are hiding away inside a grocery store because a group of guerrillas attacked their city.

It was fucked up, but it was the necessary joke to band the group of people together and provide themselves comfort in a horrifying time. To make matters worse, the people trapped there were neighbors who have a long history of bad blood, and one of the sons recently knocked up the other family’s daughter, but no one knows. The girl is struggling to find a way to admit it to her parents without them all killing themselves over it and also alerting the guerilla outside. 

Slowly, each character starts coming to you until you have your cast, your setting, your plot, and your story. 

Each idea that you get needs to be written down. Some will seem like great ideas and they’ll end up flopping. Others will seem like nothing but will link into something amazing.

The idea doesn’t matter, what matters is that you write it down to allow it to fester into something great. 

Create An Outline For Your Short Stories

The desire to just start writing can be very strong. While I do recommend that you try to write at least one of your short fiction reads like this, I wouldn’t encourage you to keep doing it past that. I’ve tried it myself a few times and have seen how jumbled and messy the stories usually are. The short stories that I’ve outlined are cleaner and the characters more realistic.

An outline doesn’t have to be long, and it also doesn’t have to be an end all, be all. I personally write a short outline, a few sentences long. Typically, the length of my outline will let me know how much to expect from the story. Anything longer than a page will usually mean it’ll veer from short stories and enter the realm of a novel. I take the time to describe the character and their struggle. Then, I also provide myself a summary of how I think the story will go.

I say I think because when it comes down to it, I don’t have much control.

Most of all, though, I figure out what the character will learn from their journey. 

Write Your Short Stories Every Day

If writing is important for you, make the time for it. It’s that simple.

Using the excuse that you have kids, a full-time job, or a complicated situation only means that you care more about other things than your writing. 

I wake up every morning at 4:30 and write for at least an hour. Now that I’m retired, I have more time to dedicate to my writing. I tend to write for longer now, but I still did it while I worked nonetheless.

Mornings worked for me best because I am what everyone considers a morning person. I wake up and my mind is racing a million miles an hour. When I prime it toward my short stories, the characters in my mind begin to race instead.

I hear their thoughts and voices as they interact with each other and the world I have placed them in. I just write it all down. I’m there watching it all happen and take note of it, what they do is up to them.

This is what I mean when I say I don’t have much control. Once I’ve made a character and given them a personality, they are their own person. I am just the body that allows them to live. It might sound like I should have myself checked out, but I literally hear them speaking in my head. If they talk too fast, I reset them until I can capture it correctly.

There are days when I feel like I’m having a hard time hearing them and I remind myself that that’s okay. I keep trying to write anyway, even if I write less. They are still there, only I am not and I’m not going to punish them for it.

As long as I keep writing every day, I find that the characters come to me easier. When before it would take me 30 minutes to get into their minds, I can do it within a minute. Writing daily will help you write smoothly.

Read What You’ve Written

When you’re done writing for the day, put it down. Don’t come back to it until you are getting ready for bed. This gives your mind enough time to detach yourself from the world and look at it from a better perspective.

I suggest you read what you wrote for the day back to yourself, preferably out loud. This will help you spot issues where things don’t flow as well as you thought or catch errors that shouldn’t be there. It will also allow you to reassure yourself on those days that you felt what you had written was shit when you reread it and realize that you’re a fucking champion and it was all in your head.

Finally, it will allow you to submerge yourself within the world and make it easier for yourself to get into the groove of it the following day.

Don’t Force Your Characters

A huge note here, don’t ever force your characters to do things they wouldn’t normally do. You will know when you are doing this as it will feel wrong and you will keep asking yourself, “How can I get this to happen?” 

Let your characters make their own decision. Let them speak. Don’t treat them like characters, treat them like the people you made them into. 

If your short story is veering off from your original outline, chances are that you made a strong enough character to decide things on their own. That’s great! Work with that.

You can still add in things around them, but you should never have them do things they would not do. 

Your characters are the most powerful part of any story you will ever write. People don’t go into short fiction reads or sci-fi novels for the lasers or the dead people coming to life. Sure, that might be what attracts them to it, but what keeps them there are the struggles and the overall arch of the character.

Even if the character makes the choice to continue on the same path, they should be provided the opportunity to learn from their struggle and grow past it. I write short stories with morals because I know that it’s the type of story that compels people. 

People are drawn to change for the better. They want to believe that they can improve their life for the better, and seeing stories that show them it’s possible solidifies that, even if the main character is an asshole.

Reward Yourself When You Finish Your First Draft

You finished! Great job, seriously. It’s not easy. If it was, everyone would be an author and would also have a six-pack and a billion dollars. 

Make sure to treat yourself to something. A meal, trip, or whatever your heart desires, but train your brain into knowing that when it does this, it gets rewarded.

This is where you get to decide what you want to do. 

I personally never thought about publishing my books or short stories for adults. It was a side project for me that I enjoyed doing and so I decided to start posting all of my short stories in English online and made my website for it. 

I enjoyed writing short fiction reads and figured there would be others who may enjoy reading them just as much so I chose to post the first drafts of the short stories online for free. Eventually, I will get them edited and sell them through a self-published route, but I’m not there yet.

I would recommend you think about what you would like to do. If you want to do this for a living, you may want to get everything edited immediately and start working on your next few short stories as you wait. You can also amass a group of short stories in English and find an agent to pitch them to a publishing house. 

Either way, I suggest you put thought into it. I realized a while ago that there are much better and easier ways to make a living than writing short stories or novels, and yet I still do it anyway.

If you want to learn more about how I make my own money, you can get a good idea by reading my updates and my section about finances.

What’s Next?

Remember to never discard any shitty ideas. They will turn into something better as long as you write them down and remember them. I’d probably add a witch who cursed the guerilla and turned them into some sort of monsters as they killed her to the one above, but that’s just me. 

Make an outline for yourself to get you thinking about your characters and the arcs you will take them through as they traverse through your short stories. Don’t force them into anything they wouldn’t do themselves, let them lead the story.

Find a routine that works for you as I found early mornings for myself, but make it a habit by writing every day. Train yourself to be in the world and in their minds as they take you through your short stories. Take it a step further and read the pages you wrote out loud to yourself so you can catch any mistakes and keep yourself immersed within your world.

Finally, when everything is said and done, reward yourself for a job well done and shoot me a message so I can read it!

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get you writing those short fiction reads for your audience right now!