Writing is a lot like gardening. Our work doesn’t end with the planting of the seeds of a story in our mind. On the contrary, it begins after the seeds are sown. Before we start writing, we have to give the story a design. What shape we choose for our story depends totally on us. The question of shape involves a number of details that seem small when we enumerate them, but are fairly significant for the structure of the story.
Most stories have a beginning, middle and an end. While playing with the plot in our mind, we have to figure out whether we want to structure it in this order, or shuffle things a bit. We can start with the middle, and then go back to the beginning and move forward to the end. Or we can start with the climax and then explain the events leading up to it. Or we can choose to be experimental and do away with the three altogether, focussing instead on a free flow of ideas as they pop up. Experimental style of writing is good, but it needs a little extra focus and wit, so that it does not confuse the readers.
Also, we have to decide beforehand if we want our story to have a twist. The twist appears at the very end, although at different points in the story readers are given slight and subtle hints about its entry. It adds an element of suspense to the text and makes the rest of the story gripping. If we want our story to be open-ended, we can leave it to the readers to guess what the twist would be. This way, the story stays with the reader long after s/he has finished reading it.
Remember the short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton, which most of you may have read as part of your school curriculum? Wasn’t it utterly frustrating to finish reading it, dying for the author to tell you what came out of the door, making up stories of our own, trying to rationalize the princess’ stream of thought? As illustrated by the story, an open-ended text is the perfect way to encourage interactive reading. It makes sure the reader converses with the author, even if it is on an imaginary level. It makes the reader become the author, too, making them give a closure to the tale; a closure that is completely the brainchild of the reader, guided at points by the author.
Along with the end, we also have to settle on what suits us most in terms of form. Do we want to write a short story? Or do we lean towards flash fiction, which is an extremely short story? Or do we want to tell an epistolary tale, that is, a tale in the form of letters? The perspective of one character can be conveyed effectively through the form of a diary entry. Depending upon our inclination and comfort zone, we can opt for any one of these, or create our own form for our story.
Once we have formed a skeletal framework for our plot, the task of filling it up with details begins. The key, again, is to let your imagination take control, and steer the story where it pleases.