Haunted – Four Tales Of Obsession

Haunted - Four Tales Of Obsession

 Principal category Short stories
 Word count (approximate pages) 11,300 (31)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $1.50

Four gripping tales you won’t be able to put down

These very contemporary short stories each revolve around a unique situation which is gradually revealed as the story unfolds, involving us in the protagonist’s experience of discovery.

From the Amy Winehouse devotee to the mentally unstable arsonist, and from the old man aroused by tears to the student who finds herself at the mercy of a bizarre experiment, we are pulled in by the power of the story-telling.

Buy in confidence – full ‘No Quibble’ refund if not satisfied.

Each in their own way, these are memorable and thought-provoking stories, but they are also highly enjoyable.

Insider View – read a sample completely free-of-charge

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Writing short stories for adults

Writing short stories is a quick way to get your work up for sale as a Kindle book on Amazon, however many people make basic mistakes which result in their story getting lousy reviews or just dropping out of sight in the rankings. It’s easily done, and when doing reviews of other works, we’ve seen it over and over again. The problem is that it’s a well-known fact that writing short stories is easy money.


What is true is that writing short stories is a relatively quick way of getting your work out there. Obviously a 5,000 word, 15 to 20 page tale is much quicker to write than a 200,000 word blockbuster. But that doesn’t mean it can be just churned out in a day’s work.

Short stories need more planning per word than a full-length novel because you have a relatively small space to:

  • Paint a picture of the setting
  • Turn the principal protagonists into real people
  • Cover the essential dialogue
  • Create a beginning, a middle and an ending

Just looking at the adult fiction market for a moment (writing short stories for children is a very different kettle of fish because of the different language used, the complexity of the story etc): there are a number of basic mistakes that newbies to the short story genre regularly make. (For the record, non-fiction books are intrinsically different although there is common ground with what I’m going to say now.)

Poor perceived value is the main cause of bad reviews.

You know and I know that the length of a book is no guide to whether it’s any good or not. If someone could produce a 1,000 word short story that guaranteed I could become a bestselling author by next weekend (and delivered the goods), I’d say that was a marvellous purchase which was well worth whatever I paid for it even if that sum were hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

However, your short story just won’t cut it if it’s too short. Don’t take my word for it, read all the book reviews on Amazon which grumble about ‘how I paid good money for something that could have been written on the back of a postcard’. The problem may well lie with Amazon’s insistence that a minimum price of $0.99 is charged but they’re a multi-national corporation with a billion dollar turnover. The rules aren’t going to change because you or I want them to therefore we need to learn to live with them.

Think of the customer and their point of view for a moment. They’ve shelled out just over a dollar (more when you include tax and Amazon’s handling fees) and they’ve got a mere couple of pages back. They then peruse this in a few minutes, feel embarrassed and angry that they’ve been duped and tell everyone that you ripped them off. They’ll never buy from you again and you’ll probably get a stinging review.


The lesson to be learnt is to have a minimum of about 5,000 words in every individual piece you put up for sale or put several stories together but try not to mix the genres or you’ll end up appealing to no-one.

Now I want to look at the way the short story’s written.

You’ve got an idea for a story and the ending’s clear in your head. Think about it: how do you get to that ending?

The next batch of traps are favourite ones into which even experienced authors can fall.

Muddled storyline

As I’ve already said, one of the problems of the short story genre is the issue of ‘getting it all said in a small space’. Even a ‘long’ short story will only be about 10,000 words – that’s not much for a complex storyline.

As a result, authors often try to turn their short story into a mini-novel but that simply doesn’t work. A short story has to take just one idea and run with it. You can’t normally get away with multiple threads and complex stories – if you put them in, they’ll only end up making the tale confusing.

Look at the name of the genre – twist-in-the-tail. A tail is a long, thin object which usually has a bend in it. Likewise, your story must be tight but not too straight and linear. Don’t try and introduce forks and parallel threads unless the whole point of the story is the existence of these threads.

Deus ex machina

The notion of not resorting to such a device dates back to the Ancient Greek poet, Horace and you could be forgiven for thinking such a well-established no-no would be a thing of the past. Not so.Hollywood uses it all the time in films (but they have multi-million dollar advertising budgets behind them that can overcome bad publicity and still make people queue to pay – you don’t have this kind of cash).

Examples of deus ex machina might be:

  • Waiting on a station platform in a far-off country, having narrowly missed the train you wanted to catch and then suddenly bumping into your childhood sweetheart.
  • Being desperate for cash, using your last bit of small change to buy a lottery ticket and then suddenly winning.
  • Your lead character finding out he or she is the son/daughter of the bigwig they’re trying to extort money from.
  • A la James Bond style, your specially equipped car having ‘just the right gadget’ to catch the bad guys off guard.
  • Your hero fortuitously spouting fluent Arabic in a tight situation because when he was a boy he had a nanny fromMorocco.

… and so on. Yes, of course in real life you might just be fortunate enough to have this happen to you, but unless you are writing a biography (where it did actually take place) or doing a parody of the Super-Hero stuff, don’t go there.

Reliance on revealed knowledge

To my mind, this is even more naff although there are some reading this that might argue that it’s really just another form of deus ex machina. The way it works is that the story is resolved by (usually) the main protagonist suddenly revealing knowledge that they’ve possessed all along.

It’s a standard plot device for the worst type of ‘mystery’. There isn’t really any mystery – it’s just a secret that the writer’s not letting on about in order to make an unexciting tale appear exciting.

Now, if the story is written from the perspective of just one character, then this might not be an issue. It’s perfectly fair comment to not know something that no-one’s told you or that you’ve not discovered. It would be bizarre otherwise.

However most short stories are seen from an omniscient viewpoint (because it makes them easier to write) and, since omniscient means ‘all-knowing’, how could the narrator not know something that one of the characters knows? That’s completely illogical.

Mixing genres

A short story needs to have its own genre just like a novel. It’s almost certainly not big enough to cope with a blend of genres. Thus, a full-length novel about sharp-shooting cowboys who came from outer space is one thing but doing that in a short story will only confuse the few readers who choose to buy it.

Mixing genres also makes a short story very difficult to fit into an anthology. These have to be finely balanced with each story complementing the others and a slapstick comedy-zombie-romance is not going to be easy to place, no matter how beautifully it’s been written.

In conclusion

These are just some of the main points to consider when writing short stories however hopefully it will give you an idea of what it entails and the main pitfalls to avoid.

The most important thing, of course, is that it has to be an enjoyable experience for the reader. This has the best chance of happening if you stick to the rules set out above.

About the writer

Apart from being a director of Any Subject Ltd, Clive West is also the author of an anthology of twist-in-the-tail short stories called Hobson’s Choice which can be purchased from Amazon.

The Unruly Princess And Other Stories

More information about the book

The Unruly Princess & Other StoriesThe Unruly Princess is one of six stories in this collection which is aimed at children aged 4 to 12. All these charming tales have been written by a qualified and experienced Montessori teacher and they have a strong bias towards the natural world.

The intention is that older children can read the stories unaided while younger ones will enjoy having them read aloud – especially at bedtime. Not only are the tales entertaining, they are also designed to provoke discussions, fact-finding missions and general interest in the environment and creatures around us.

Sample text

“Lucy pretended not to be interested at first, but before long her enthusiasm couldn’t be contained any longer. This was the ideal den: ready-made, the perfect size, and full of shelves and hooks. She would make it into an Aladdin’s Cave. She announced that no-one was to even peek into the cupboard until she told them to, and began the first of many trips up and down stairs fetching all her trinkets and ornaments: strings of beads, ribbons, plastic animals, artificial flowers, Christmas decorations … She was a real squirrel, and these were the nuts hoarded over several years.

She hung her beads and ribbons from the hooks, draping them this way and that from one hook to another to create a complicated web of colour. Some of the beads were bright, translucent glass ones so that in the gloom of the cupboard they shone dully until a stray ray of light woke a spark of peacock blue or amber in their hearts. She lined the shelves thickly with anything and everything shiny or colourful and preferably both. There was no theme other than the aesthetic pleasure provided by fortuitious juxtapositions of colour and form. A plaster pig was flanked by a conch shell and a cut glass perfume bottle; a brass eagle from the top of the grandfather clock stared into the depths of a plastic rose.”

Find out more about The Unruly Princess And Other Stories


Hobson’s Choice & 15 other twist in the tail stories

Hobson's Choice

 Principal category Short Stories
 Word count (approximate pages) 49,000 (160)
 In Kindle, Epub or PDF formats $2.99

You won’t see the twists coming

Here are 16 short stories which will have you thinking, clenching your teeth, tut-tutting and laughing. With a charming selection of genuinely venomous and duplicitous characters, self-seekers, jealous neighbours, and other no-gooders, you will be spoilt for choice about who and when to boo. Not only that, the stories have real twists in them – you think you’ve got it sussed and it turns out that your conclusion was too hastily arrived at.

Buy in confidence – full ‘No Quibble’ refund if not completely satisfied

The title story is bound to have an effect on you. Its style and content are original and, without wishing to give it away, it’s that part which will leave you troubled. It’s certainly a story to re-read, too, as you will get even more things out of it second time around.

Stories like The Watcher or the much gentler Lost will catch you out with their endings while A Good Education and Moving Up will have you booing and hissing at the main protagonists.

In all the stories, you will find humour, pathos, a strong and plausible plot and well-developed characters.

Insider View – read the first chapter as a PDF completely free-of-charge

BUY Hobson’s Choice & 15 other twist-in-the-tail stories by Clive West for only $2.99

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