Plotting my short story series

Forums Fiction Plotting Plotting my short story series

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    Donna Darling

    Whelp! Here goes: ^^;

    So, for the past three years I’ve been planning a short story series (think like an episodic tv show in prose). I chose this format because I knew that this story would not work as a novel series, at least not with what I had in my head.

    I’m not exactly the strongest when it comes it plotting, but I’ve become pretty confident in my over-arching plot (or what I have of it), the character arcs I have planned, and the smaller overarching plots that make up the three “arcs” or “volumes” (or “seasons” lol) of the series.

    The problems come with the episodic short stories. If I do say so myself, I’m pretty darn decent at coming up with premises–not so much with bite-sized plots. I don’t suppose anyone has any advice that could be applied to plotting short stories or novelettes–especially so that they don’t become too simplistic or repetitive?

    I’m also wondering: if I never get the hang of bite-size plotting, do you think that readers (reading for free online) would be satisfied enough if I somehow miraculously managed to nail everything else (cool over-arching premise, creative world-building, fun characters, a dark-yet-whimsical writing style/atmosphere, and interesting over-arching plots and character arcs) to forgive simplistic “episode” plots?

    Lover of spoop, baker of cake, ENFP, proud Hufflepuff.


    Hi! 🙂 I’m not really all that good at this I don’t think, but I figured, you know, might as well pop in and try to help you out. 🙂

    SO! For one, I think that if you have great characters, story, plot, etc., your readers are most likely to be lenient when it comes to difficultly writing out story “episodes,” if that’s what you meant. If you mean as in, different plots per episode, then yeah that sounds awesome! Just like an actual show. I say ten points to you! Ten points! *clap*

    As for different mini-plots, ah, that’s SO HARD. I suggest reading some webtoons. (If you don’t already – also, please be careful about the ones you choose to read. Currently I only read I Love Yoo, Watermelon, and unOrdinary, but even those last two can often be pretty violent and have horrid language and younger readers need to be cautious.) The author of I Love Yoo, particularly, does a good job transitioning between episodes and creating mini sub-plots, and maybe in reading it it’ll clue you in on how it’s done a little. Other than that, I just say, yes: try not to make them too repetitive. Throw in twists whenever you see the opportunity, because that’s what keeps people reading. I think.

    I’m not really sure, because I’m not a pro at this myself, but I hoped this helped. 😀 Good luck!

    Secretly Hedgehog Jones. Don’t tell anyone.

    Donna Darling

    Um…well…that didn’t actually help me much, but I really do appreciate the attempt! 😀

    Also, I frickin’ love Webtoon!! 8D

    However, I’m afraid that Webtoons (especially I Love Yoo, which is one of my favorites) aren’t really comparable to what I’m trying to do with my story. With most Webtoon series, every episode is a continuation of the previous episode, all connected in one continuous story-line. My story is more like a TV show, like say Gravity Falls, where every episode has its own premise, its own theme and moral, and its own beginning, middle, and end; while still being connected by an overarching plot.

    If it were more like a Webtoon–in other words, more like a normal novel–I wouldn’t have this problem. Instead I would be having a whole other, different set of problems; which is why I chose this format rather than writing a novel. 🙁

    Lover of spoop, baker of cake, ENFP, proud Hufflepuff.

    Jane Maree

    @donna-darling This is a bit of a tough situation. Let me just try outline it for a second to make sure I understand your problem before trying to offer any advice.

    You’re writing a series of short stories that flow on from each other, but not (quite) in one continuous story. They each have their own theme and development, beginning and end, then wrap up. The next story then picks up afterward, but with a new ‘small’ goal, though still aiming for the overarching series goal.

    Have I got that straight?

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope // janemareeauthor.com.au

    Donna Darling

    @jane-maree Exactly! Just like a TV series. 😀

    Lover of spoop, baker of cake, ENFP, proud Hufflepuff.


    *lurks in the background because this is the same thing I’m trying to do*

    *shameless self promotion* https://weridasusual.home.blog/

    Jane Maree

    @donna-darling Yep, gotcha.

    First of all: this idea is really cool! I love the TV show sort of style. *thumbs up*


    Let’s look at some thoughts on plotting short stories/’episodes’ for this.

    You’ll obviously have the overall plot, which each episode will be leading up toward. By the sounds of it, you’ve got that nailed down all right. It’s keeping the episodes in small parts that’s tricky.


    This is a struggle that a lot of writers have: keeping short stories short. I’ve written several short stories, so I’ll share my thoughts/methods, but keep in mind that they might not work for you because we’re both individual writers and have different styles, etc.


    When writing a short story, I like to see it as part of the overall story. Almost like a chapter. Yes it has a beginning and end, but if I write it with the view that there’s other ‘chapters’, I don’t feel as tempted to try include all the details at once. That’s a pro of doing this in episodes–with each episode, it will probably become easier, because there are fewer elements you need to mention. The first few episodes will be introducing the world and the characters, which is harder to keep brief.

    In short stories, only include what you absolutely have to include. If your story can’t possibly work without it, keep it in. If it’s just a cool element that doesn’t actually have a core function in the story to impact the plot/theme, keep it out for now–maybe you could use it in a later episode.

    Short stories have to be fairly fast paced. Each important scene in the structure will follow right into the next important scene, without any fillers in between. I definitely recommend outlining your episodes with the Three Act Plot Structure (that you can find under the Resources page), if you fill out the details of each of those nine scenes, you will essentially have an entire outline of your short story.

    Go watch several episodes of a TV show (maybe not all at once, but over the course of a few weeks 😛 ) and study them. Try to fit them into a story structure and see how they handle the different plot points and character development moments.


    As for how to come up with the bite-sized ideas in the first place, there are so many options. Brainstorm all the possible ways to stop your characters from reaching the story goal. Add side plots. Mysteries. Betrayals. Set backs. Plot twists. New creatures. New characters. More problems. Foreboding. Etc.

    If you ever need help with brainstorming specific ideas, I’d definitely recommend you make another topic on the forum and ask for ideas from these wonderful writers here. (And you can tag me too so I can lend a hand if need be 😉 )

    Each episode doesn’t have to forward the main plot very much. It could just be foreboding something, or it could be starting the threads of a mystery that only gets answered in three episodes’ time. It should always be developing the characters though and strengthening their character arcs and the story theme.


    For your final point about whether readers would forgive simplistic episode plots if you nailed everything else: I don’t think the plots would actually be that simplistic. Even if you can’t get small enough plots, you can split each plot idea into two halves and end one episode halfway through, leave the readers on a cliffhanger, and suck them into reading the next episode too. Obviously it depends on the exact sort of story and style you’ll use, but that’s the overall feel I’m getting from this.


    That’s all my thoughts for now, but if you have any other questions/if I didn’t explain clearly or anything at all, don’t hesitate to hit me up! 😉

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope // janemareeauthor.com.au



    I didn’t read every message other than yours so someone may have already said this but I had an old and experienced writer once tell me: In a short story series make sure you stay fluid with interesting segmented stories. Through all the short stories in the series also have an overarching story that builds slowly throughout all of them and keeps you wondering how it will all end even as the smaller stories take place. That way it’s thick enough to make you wonder but not overpowering.

    Ok, so I didn’t say it exactly like he did but that was along the same lines. Hope it helps

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Jzhurricane.

    Don’t let me leave Murph!

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