How to write an impactful story in 500 words or less

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Tips for our book writers (Submissions end 15th of July 2022)

Hello PMW,

We are very excited about sharing the stories of professional migrant women and women of colour in Australia. We know that many stories are waiting to be told, and voices needing to be heard, because every story matters. And we want to make that happen through the writing of this book.

Over the next few weeks, we will share some tips to help you hone your writing skills and edit your work as you write.

 

Tip 1. Assume the context

This book is about people who identified as migrant women. Whether you move here from another country, as an adult on your own, with a partner, or under the supervision of a parental figure, the fact of the matter is that you or your parents migrated to Australia. Many people might be tempted to start their story by saying when they arrived and where they are originally from. Instead, you can skip that part and focus on a particular moment during your life as a migrant that you want to share. Short stories are more powerful if they focus on one single topic, issue, event or moment in time. Remember, you can share up to 5 stories for this book if there is more than one event in your story!

 

Bonus tip: add to your signature your country of origin, the year you migrated to Australia and your age if you wish to.

Here is a beautiful example of a short story. Although is not written by a woman, it illustrates how to assume the context and how go to the core of the story:

You don’t belong here (word count 162)

It was a weekday evening in the 1990s. Tram Route 86 running through Melbourne’s north. Ammah was heading home from work, dressed in a sari as she often was, minding her business when she was approached.

“You don’t belong here”.

If you know anything about Ammah, she is a pretty strong woman. She looked at the person, held their stare, looked away. They didn’t like this. And that’s when the first punch landed.

Not single person on the tram intervened. Not one person stepped in. It was only when it was clear it wasnt going to stop, that a fellow commuter put himself between ma and her attacker.

She got off the tram. The tram continued. Her life would continue.

30 years later, her son will share why this story was a pivotal one in shaping his life choices, to staff from more than 70 local governments at the Melbourne Convention Centre on Thursday.

Because of her, I can, and I will.

This story was taken from LinkedIn

By Shankar Kasynathan

 

Tip 2. Capture the moment

The ability to capture a moment in time will transform your writing. These moments are what make up your life. They are the moments that make up stories.

Begin by going through each of these senses. What do I see? What do I hear? Taste? Smell? Feel? 

Then pay Attention to the Small Details. The details have to mean something. They have to point to a bigger picture of what you’re trying to express. Include details that give depth to the moment. If you include small details is because they build a better story.

Capture the Moment (word count 303)

Kneeling, I wrap my baggy, drab raincoat further around me, shielding me from the frigid weather. My eyes get distracted and travel around, bouncing from anything that catches my eyes. The smell of damp wood and grass surrounds me, pulling me into my world; everything around me is soothing. Although the sky is sad and gloomy, the sky still gives a sense of peace and serenity. Instead of taking out my book, like I originally planned too, I take a moment to take in this glorious setting and I start to think about how this amazing little escape is only a couple meters absent from society but has the absence of any human or worries. 

As the bubble, that surrounded me as soon as I knelt down, burst because of the sound of footsteps come from the trail above me and the loud mooing coming from the cows. Once the sounds pass, I dive back into the bubble, that I unconsciously made. Once I am in this bubble, again, I listen to the soft sounds as the wind dances around me and create a soft whistling sound of the wind passing through the eucalyptus leaves, some falling swiftly down. This insufficient corner that is completely shut off from the outside world, has the power to clear even the most unorganised minds. 

Once I have taken in my surroundings, making sure not to overlook anything, I decided to start reading. I did not hesitate to leap into the mischief that the “Railway Children” get themselves into. This alternate world where everything is different, is my escape from the real world where most thing are routined and nothing exciting last for more than an hour, where life is not about worries of the future or past, in books its like diving into a compelling reality.

By Jemma Hine

Born in China from European parents. Migrated to Australia at the age of one in 2009

 

Tip 3. Let your title tell part of your story

When it comes to short stories, especially micro stories, a creative title can go a long way.

The title can act as an introduction, or a promise of what’s coming: is the first impression of your story.

It helps the reader gain context, and discover the theme, without giving away any event.

Nannies on the train (word count 109)

I was returning home from the city on the train with my 10-year-old son.

I noticed a woman with dark skin and a strong foreign accent sitting near us, travelling with a boy. The boy looked younger than my son and had fair skin, red hair, a local accent and was wearing a footy jumper.

The woman must be taking the child to his parents –I thought– her shift must be finishing soon.

Then my son interrupted my thoughts with a question, and when I responded I could hear my own foreign accent and see the pale colour of his hand next to mine.

By a migrant mum.


Tip 4. Is it cake time yet?

Before you answer that question, let’s think of your story as a cake. If you want to share a cake, would you share it when:

  1. you are mixing it
  2. it’s still baking
  3. it’s hot off the oven
  4. it has cooled down and has all the decorations


You probably would agree that the best time to share the cake is when it has cooled down and has all the decorations. Some people would even let it rest over night and let all the beautiful flavours develop.  


The same goes for your story. If you are still in the middle of it, and the story has not had enough time to cool down, probably it is not the right time to share it. In that case, you can always share another story that is wordy of a party. Your party!