How to Write a Short Story!
Bradley Sands


Sperm count lower than the adult entertainment clerk that scrubs it off the floor? Uterus so barren your wallet is filled with photos of an echo? If you meet any of the above criteria, consider leaving paper and ink behind as your legacy rather than fleshy regrets.

Begin with the plot. If one doesn't immediately jump out at you from behind the shower curtain, excavate your mind until you discover one that will dominate your fingertips for the next seventeen hours. I recommend using a bone saw. Use a plot that can be summed up in one sentence, a sentence containing so many words that your tongue will make a run for it before you finish explaining it to your neighbor.

Next, choose a title that will grab the potential reader. Endow it with enough strength to entrap its victim, but enough restraint to avoid crushing their windpipe. If you fail to capture an appropriate title, I suggest using something generic and capping it off with an exclamation mark.

"Invent" a character to be your protagonist. Conserve vital energies by endowing it with your characteristics, while giving it a quirk that you don't share ― this way, you can deny that it's based on you. Give it a name that you can remember, like the name that you moan while looking in the mirror and flexing.

Come up with the ending before you get started. This way, the reader will be as surprised as you are.

To alleviate the suffering of insomniacs, make the first sentence extremely dull. Rewrite it, making it even duller. Do it again. Again. Again. Be obsessive about your attempt to attain the epitome of dullness. Do it again and again and again until you put yourself to sleep. Have an assistant on hand to wake you up with smelling salts. Pay them in college credits and ice cream. Take delight in the status that comes with having your own personal intern.

Every sentence should be written this way.

Tear the seeds out of the first sentence and plant it in your toilet. Add fertilizer until the second sentence grows. It should propel your plot, and continue to be dull, but not overshadow the dullness of the first sentence.

Take a Bic to your wrist and bleed the contents of your fifth sentence all over the wall. This will serve as your outline and you must always be two sentences ahead of yourself. Continue to add to the outline until you suffer major blood loss. Then drive yourself to the hospital, get your juices replenished, and start all over again.

Describe every incidental detail. Use no-frills language to describe each character's appearance. Give your reader the thousands of words needed for them to conjure up the images of the characters in their head. If this fails to occur, they will be unable to follow the plot, which should proceed at an excessively slow pace. Use realistic dialogue, the sort of stuff that you would overhear in a plumbing supplies store.

Remember artificiality is bad!

Your story should feel like an extraordinarily long bus ride from a place that you loathe to a destination that makes you want to use your return ticket before your feet touch the ground.

Your protagonist should not do a damned thing. Make them get pushed around from person to person and place to place as if they were trapped in a pinball machine. Have them accomplish their goals through no effort of their own. Extra points if they succeed through the efforts of a giant disembodied hand that descends from the sky.

Keep a lookout for clichéd phrases. Whenever you catch one, replace it with goofy rhyming words. Must be nonsensical.

Last but not least, every story must be written from the point of view of an eight-year-old who thinks and speaks as if they're fifty-two. Their mother must have either been recently diagnosed with cancer, dying from cancer for quite a while, or cancer's latest victim. Your pick! Failure to comply will result in your arrest by the literary police.

If you follow this successful formula to writing a short story, your memory will live on forever in a university-backed literary journal … assuming it's printed on indestructible metal. Maybe somebody will even read your story.


Bradley Sands is the author of It Came from Below the Belt and the editor of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. After attempting to steal all the spare change in a shopping mall’s fountain by hot-wiring the sports car being displayed in the mall lobby and crashing it into the water, Bradley tested the claim that putting a thumbtack in a escalator’s handrail turns it into stairs and embarrassed the pursuing security guards to such an extent that they were neither able to continue shouting menacingly nor have legs that functioned properly. Little did Bradley know, the escalator was an experimental model designed to tie a rider’s shoelaces seconds before they were caught in the track and experienced a messy horror movie death. And that the fiendish escalator manufacturing horde had rushed the units in without first properly testing them. And that the thrust of the tack would cause a series of mysterious circumstances that most likely had something to do with radiation, endowing Bradley with the power to have people do the opposite of everything that he says. His new era of greatness began with telling mall security not to hurt him. Keep track of his heroics at www.bradleysands.com.