Writing Short Stories with Subtxt

Writing a short story in Subtxt works the sane way it does when writing a full-length screenplay or novel. You use the same pieces and the sane methodologies—you just use less of them.

Using InstantScenes

If you’re writing something relatively simple, like a short 1200-1800 word article, or a three to four page short story (even a Calvin and Hobbes-sized comic strip 😃), Subtxt's InstantScene feature can help you structure what happens when.

To learn in great detail how to use this feature, read Writing a Scene with Subtxt on Narrative First.

The Structure of a Short Story

If you want to write something a bit more complex, something between an InstantScene and complete story, you can simply use Subtxt’s Build a Story features—and then leave out the parts of the story you don’t want to write.

Short stories are simply a slice of a complete story. They tell a complete “story” of their particular focus, bit they’re not fully complete in the kind of argument they’re making (I.e., their Premise will only be partially proven).

Hiding the Unimportant

To get started writing a short story in Subtxt, first create a Premise in the Premise Builder that approximates what you want to say with your story.

Once built, drop onto your story and determine what aspects of the complete story you want to focus on in this short story. Typically, short stories focus on either the Main Character Throughline or the Plot Throughline (and sometimes both).

For the parts you want to ignore, find the Storybeats in those Throughlines and turn their Visibility off.

This “hides” the Storybeat from the final Treatment, while keeping it intact in case you change your mind. Some writers find after writing a short story, that they want to develop it into something bigger. Subtxt’s Visibility feature makes this transition easier by preventing you from having to start over from scratch. 🙂

Once you have hidden the non-essential parts of your short story, you may continue to proceed to the individual Throughlines that matter—and start working your way through them as you usually would in a larger work.

After completing your development of the Throughlines, and re-ordering them to suit your taste in the Storybeats section, drop into your Treatment to find your short story.

All that’s left are a simple tweaks and adjustments here and there for spelling and storytelling (you can do it right there in the Treatment View), and then Export the final product to take into your favorite writing app.

Congratulations! 🎉

You just used Subtxt to write a compelling and meaningful short story.

Additional Resources

There are several articles on Narrative First—and even a class here in Subtxt—that explore writing a short story further:

To Tell a Tale, To Craft a Story compares two children's books Scuffy the Tugboat and Sam and the Firefly to discuss what happens when you do and don't use some sort of structure to guide the flow of narrative events.

Back to Basics: Structuring a Short Story is the class in the Writers Room where I go over the step-by-step procedure towards using Subtxt to write your short story.

Both Resurrecting the Flying Kreisslers and Writing Short Stories with Dramatica use a fantastic short story written by Logan and The Queen's Gambit writer/director Scott Frank to explore the structure of shorter material.

The Structure of a Short Story covers the theoretical narrative concepts behind short stories (as related to complete stories).

Piper: A Complete Story in Six Minutes relates the subtextual structure behind Pixar's animated short film, Piper.