Monday, October 20, 2014

How to Write a Short Story

What is a Short Story?
A short story is a work of fiction or imagination that is usually written in easily understandable grammatical structure with a natural flow of speech. Short story is meant to be read at single sitting and therefore should be brief and as direct as possible. A typical short story has very little action and hardly any character development.
Basic Elements of a Short Story
Short stories have six basic elements that they share with longer works of fiction. The basic elements are: setting, conflict, plot, characters and character development, theme, and point of view. All stories have some version of all of these elements although not necessarily in the most literal manner.
1. Setting – A story’s setting is more than just its physical location. It includes the time in which the story takes place, whether it’s the span of an hour or a lifetime and whether it takes place in modern times, the future or the distant past. Setting refers to the world the characters inhabit, which includes such as weather, architecture, social expectations, and legal practices.
2. Conflict – Generally speaking, all stories have some sort of conflict. Some conflicts are more blatant than others, clearly pitting characters against each other, against society in general, or against nature or some external force. Other conflicts are more subtle, taking place mostly within a characters own mind: their view of themselves, their view of the world, their morals, and their emotions. The conflict in a story is generally what makes it interesting or compelling. If nothing is at stake, a story will not typically be very interesting, even if the writing itself is good.
3. Plot – A story’s plot consist of all it’s events, laid out in chronological order. Plot is often broken up into five basic sections. Most stories will follow this structure. The first is the introduction, when the characters are introduced. Next comes the rising action, when the story’s conflict is revealed and it really starts moving. Sometimes, this happens at the very start, essentially combining the introduction and rising action. The climax of the story is its most pivotal point, when the conflict could swing one way or the other and the characters are tested. Some stories have multiple smaller climaxes. The fourth section is falling action, as the conflict is either resolved or left open. Finally the last section is the denouement, or the end, when the final outcome is explained – or left for the reader to wonder about, depending on the story.
4. Characters – Most stories have one or more protagonists, whish in another way of saying “main character” (or characters). Some stories have clearly defined antagonists, or villains, whereas others no not. Sometimes the line between protagonist and antagonist is blurred, as in the case of an anti0hero. Characters can be either round or flat. Round characters are fleshed out like they are real people. The reader is given many realistic details about the character. Flat characters are less complicated and stereotyped or caricatured. We don’t see them from more than one angle, either because they aren’t centrally important or because the narrator is only concerned with one aspect of their personality of because the narrative mode is satirical or ironic. Characters can also be either dynamic or static. Dynamic characters change as a story progresses. They learn new things, change their minds, grow as people, mature, have breakdowns, insights, or epiphanies,. Static characters stay pretty much the same throughout a narrative.
5. Theme – Theme is the most abstract of these basic elements. Theme is, essentially, what the story is about. This is not to suggest that all stories are about only one thing or that once you have figured out the theme of a story you have somehow cracked the code or solved a problem. Themes can be complex, and the important thing when analyzing literature is not what the themes are but how they are created and developed. All stories have themes. Themes can include death, redemption, challenging gender roles, overcoming fears, prejudice, hatred or the shortcomings of language. Most stories can be shown to have more than one theme.
6. Point of View – Point of View is a question of who is telling the story and how. In a first-person story, the narrator is a character that uses the pronoun I. Sometimes, the narrator speaks in first person, but the real protagonist is another character. In a second-person story, the narrator uses the pronoun “you” and addresses the reader directly and if he or she is a character; this point of view is quite rare. Third person refers to all of the characters as “he” or “she” – the narrator is not part of the action. Sometimes, a third-person narrator is omniscient, meaning he knows what all the characters are doing and even describes what they are thinking. Other times, the narrator only shoes things as they would be seen or heard but doesn’t go inside the character’s heads; this is knows as “limited” third-person point of view. There are many ways to experiment with point of view, and different stories may employ very different techniques, including switching narrators or modes of narration.

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Essential Tips for Short Story Writing
According to Mr. Vonnegut, there are only eight tips you need to craft a good short story. These tips were originally compiled in his 1999 book, “Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction” but were made available later.

1.      Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the tie was wasted.
2.      Give the reader at least once character he or she can root for.
3.      Every character should want something; even it is only a glass of water.
4.      Every sentence must do one of two things – reveal character or advance the action.
5.      Start as close to the end as possible.
6.      Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them, - in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7.      Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, you story will get pneumonia.
8.      Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches east the last few pages.
Writing a short story is nearly like writing a novel, only condensing the words and elements.  

Copyright: radiantskies / 123RF Stock Photo

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday Writing Prompt - Love Scenes

Here we are, it's Friday again and time for the Friday Writing  Prompt. Today we are going to go with a "Love Scenes " prompt. Use the following "Love Scenes" prompt to stimulate those writing juices and maybe even come up with a story?

This is a LOVE SCENE not a SEX SCENE. That's EROTICA. We're not going there. What I'm trying to lead you to do is show (not tell) how two people express their love for each other through intimate words and action.


"Write a love scene that demonstrates two people expressing their love and adoration for each other. Make sure the scene includes dialogue and action. Use an experience from your own life as inspiration or make on up."

Did this prompt help you? Why or why not? Were you able come up with a response for the prompt? Did you use something from your own life as inspiration or did you make something up? Did you remember to use dialogue and action? Did you remember to "Show" not "Tell" when creating your story?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Writing Prompt - Mystery

Here we are, it's Friday again and time for the Friday Writing  Prompt. Today we are going to go with a "Mystery" prompt. Use the following "Mstery" prompt to stimulate those writing juices and maybe even come up with a story?

"You woke up to find a post-it note attached to your forehead. This note is a clue that leads you to another clue somewhere in your house. Your roommates claim ignorance but decide they'll help you to solve the mystery. One clue continues to lead to another. where will it end?"

Did this prompt help you? Why or why not? Were you able come up with a response for the prompt? Do you follow the clues left? Were you able to come up with an explanation? What was the end result? Were your roommates really involved?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Writer's Secret Magical Genius Part 2

In our recent post, we've discovered that in all writers there is a "genius" that exists of some sort that can be harnessed and used. In this post, we are going to go through the steps on figuring out how to do that.

1. First, to get your genius into action, you must quiet your mind. Learn to hold your mind as still as your body. You will have to practice this. But, there will come a time when you'll be able to do with with some consistency.

2. Practice in Control. Repeat the procedure once a day for several days. Just close your eyes with the idea of holding your mind stead, but feeling no urgency or tension. Once a day, don't push it or attempt to force it. As you begin to get results, make the period a little longer, but never strain over it. If you cannot do this, choose something simple, like a child's rubber ball, (gray is better than something shiny.) Hold the ball in your hand and look at it, confining your attention to that one simple objet and calling your mind back to it quietly whenever it wanders. When you are able to think of nothing but the object for some moments,  take the next step.

3. The Story Idea as the Object. When you have succeeded, even a little, try holding a story idea or a character in your mind, and letting your stillness center around it. You'll see almost incredible results. Ideas will take on color and form; a character that was a puppet will move and breathe. Consciously or unconsciously every successful writer who ever lived calls on this faculty to put the breath of life into his/her creations.

4. The magic in operation. Choose a story at random. Since we are practicing, you may either choose one of your stories or a character from a well-known book. Make a rough outline of the book.l Decide on the main characters, then the secondary characters. See as plainly as possible what crucial situation you would like to put them into, and how you would like to leave them at the end. Don't worry about getting them either in or out of their dilemma; simple see them in it, and then see it resolved. Remember, we are just seeing it set in motion, the means to the end. Think over the whole story in a sort of pleasant indulgent mood, correcting any obvious absurdities, reminding yourself of this or that item which you would like to include if if it could be brought in naturally.

Now, take that rough draft of a story out for a walk with you. You are going to walk till you are mildly tired, and at the time you should be back at your starting place; gauge your distance by that. Get into a smooth and easy swing, not vigorous and athletic - a lazy, loafing walk is better at first, although it may become more rapid later. Now think about your story; let yourself be engrossed in it.-- but think of it as a story, not of how you are going to write it, or what means you will use to get this or that affect. Refuse to let yourself be diverted by anything outside. As you circle back to your starting place, think of the story's end, as though you were laying it aside after reading it.

5. Inducing the "Artistic Coma". Now bathe, still thinking of the story in a desultory way and then go into a dim room. Lie down, flat on your back: the alternative position, to be chosen only if you find that the other ma kew you too drowsy, is to sit not quite fully relaxed in a low, large chair. When you have taken a comfortable position, do not move again: make your body quiet. Then quiet your mind. Lie there, not quite asleep, not quite awake.

After a while -- it may be twenty minutes, it may be an hour; it may be two -- you will feel a definite impulse to rise, a kind of surge of energy. Obey it at once; you will be in a slightly somnambulistic state indifference to everything on earth except what you are about to write; dull to all the outer world but vividly alive to the world of your imagination. Get up and go to your paper or computer, and begin to write. The state you are in at that moment is the state an artist works in. Genius.

6. Valedictory. How good a piece of work emerges depends on you and your life: how sensitive, how discriminating you are, how closely your experience reflects the experience of your potential readers, how thoroughly you have taught yourself the elements of good prose writing, how good an ear you have for rhythm. But, limited or not, you will find, if you have followed the exercises, that you can bring forth a shapely, integrated piece of work by this method. If will have flaws, no doubt; but you will be able to see them objectively and work on eradicating them. By these exercises you have made yourself into a good instrument for the use of your own genius. You are flexible and sturdy, like a good tool. You know what it feels like to work as an artist.

Now, as homework, read all the books you can find on writing fiction. You are at last in a position to have them do you some good. :-)

Resource: Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Friday, September 19, 2014

Friday Writing Prompt - Home

Here we are, it's Friday again and time for the Friday Writing  Prompt. Today we are going to go with a "Home" prompt. Use the following "Home" prompt to stimulate those writing juices and maybe even come up with a story?

"What does the concept of home mean to you? Would you call just one place or multiple places home at the same time? Describe how you came to this feeling about your 'home'."

Did this prompt help you? Why or why not? Were you able come up with a response for the prompt? Did you determine if you have a concept of home or homes? What does home mean to you? Did home mean something different when you were younger than now? Was this prompt helpful for you?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Writer's Secret Magical Genius Part 1

All writers have a third component to their nature - genius. I know, you're mother knew it all along, right?

But, any writers go their entire lifetime, without even recognizing it. Without liberating it. Without working with it. Without understanding it.

So sad.

In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande says this magnificent statement, "No human being is so poor as to have no  trace of genius; none so great that he comes within infinity of using his own inheritance to the full."

The average man knows nothing of the genius he carries within him.

Others may labor arduously for a glimpse of inspiration. That is not genius.  There is an energy release. Authors know of it. Artists understand it.

Many call it "getting in your stride," "hitting the zone".. or my favorite, "the voices started talking."

Every writer has their own experience of that burst of genius. That sense of clarity. Their own method of releasing the faculty by some trial and error process that they've discovered works for them. It's what starts their "rituals" in their writing. Lighting only strikes when the coffee cup is set here, and the sun is just setting or rising, and the melodies of so and so are playing and the chair is adjusted so.

Am I right?

There is a common denominator if you look at it hard enough. Rhythmical, monotonous, and wordless. That is the key.

As if by putting oneself into a light hypnosis, a writer has found the key to tapping into his/her genius and writing the story to the bones.

Next week we'll discuss the formulaic way into the Writer's Genius.

Writers Resource:

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Writing Prompt - Timing

Here we are, it's Friday again and time for the Friday Writing  Prompt. Today we are going to go with a "Timing" prompt. Use the following "Timing" prompt to stimulate those writing juices and maybe even come up with a story?

"They say timing is everything. How would your life change if you had perfect timing? You'd always say and do things at exactly the perfect time without fail.  How will things improve for you? Be specific."

Did this prompt help you? Why or why not? Were you able come up with a response for the prompt? Did you determine if your life would change if you had perfect timing? Did your life improve for you? Was this prompt helpful for you?

Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Writing!