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Focused Short Story Writers (1 Viewer)

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Hi am a writer. I am currently working on a short story (it's going well really...) I have been trying to learn as much about writing as I can over the past year. I have written and researched and will continue to do so, but now I would like to get into an online community of writers where I can talk, and be talked to about my chosen profession, and where hopefully I will be able to build a small network of writer friends (since I don't know any writers in real life).I want to help you as much as you help me, I would like to give creative and helpful criticism as well as receive it. A very little bit about me; I am ( and I know nearly all writers say this or at least they should) an avid reader. I enjoy a certain amount of politics talk, and could be called a history enthusiast. So, if anyone wants to talk about these subjects as well feel free.

As the title suggests I would like to talk about having focus in writing, particularly short story writing. Writing is a craft with so many things that need to be taken into account that it sometimes seems impossible to remember them all. As a young writer it is incredibly difficult to look at the intricacies of writing and believe that one day I will have them all down. There is, however, a few basic concepts that if the inexperienced writer can grab onto they begin to build a working framework of knowledge. Focus is the most important of these basic concepts; don't say it all just say what matters. Focus is used to more extremes in short story writing, which is like any other writing in that it shows something and than talks about it. In short stories the magnification is just brought up another notch to show even less in even greater detail, which tends to lend even more power to even the mundane subjects.

So, the paper is blank and your holding the pen. Anyone who would like to add there advice please speak up. I would like to discuss this subject because it's important and a good conversation starter,and because I hope that in telling others what I know and hearing what they know we can all increase each others chances of becoming good writers or even great writers. Pleas give critiques as much as you ask for them. And try to keep what you say helpful instead of hurtful. We are all writers here and hateful words are of no use to anyone.
Check out this icon, :thumbl: cool huh?
 
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Cran

Da Boss Emeritus
Patron
Hi CalebTheWriter, and welcome to WritingForums.

... I would like to talk about having focus in writing, particularly short story writing...

Focus is the most important of ... basic concepts; don't say it all just say what matters.

Focus is used ... in short story writing ...

In short stories the magnification is ... brought up another notch to show ... less in ... greater detail, which tends to lend ... more power to ... mundane subjects.
A worthy topic for discussion. I look forward to seeing it develop.
 

Kryptex

Senior Member
I'd be glad to talk to you about anything you would like to know :)

I'm not all that experienced, but I'm good at helping people get rid of writers block, so if you ever find yourself stuck, feel free to message me! :)

Oh, and I'd like to see what you've been writing :)
 

Kyle R

WF Veterans
I love short fiction. :encouragement: It's my favorite. Like said in the OP, there is less room for expansion, so the writer really has to economize his words and make every one pop and sizzle. When I go to the bookstore I look specifically for story collections for that very reason.

I believe a major step in finding your voice for writing short stories is to read short stories. You want to be familiar with the craft, to draw inspiration from others and to explore the paths that have already been trodden on so you can glean whatever insights from them that you can.

Do you have any favorite short story writers? If not, I recommend finding some.

As for the craft of writing a short story, there are so many writers that push the boundaries. Not all short stories zoom in on the mundane to blow it up like a giant big-screen slow-motion image with violins playing in the background. I recently read a short story (The Deep, by Anthony Doerr) that followed a boy's life from his birth, all the way to his twenties. Yes, there were a few poignant "close ups" from the narration, but overall the story was full of broad, sweeping strokes.

A sentence from that story, as an example:

Every six months a miner is fired or drafted or dies and is replaced by another, so that very early in his life Tom comes to see how the world continually drains itself of young men, leaving behind only objects--empty tobacco pouches, bladeless jackknives, salt-caked trousers--mute, incapable of memory.

Instead of zooming in on a particular moment, here Doerr is narratively passing over entire months (years, even).

So, I suppose what I want to say about this is: don't feel bound by time with your narrative in short stories. You can write in the moment, zoomed in and close up, but feel free to move around time, faster than light itself if you choose.

What matters, in my opinion, is that you filter all the experiences through a single character (or characters, if you have multiple main ones). Ultimately I believe that's what a short story is about: the main character. Everything that happens in the story ricochets against them, and, ideally, we see the character changed as result, in some way, at the end.
 

Bilston Blue

WF Veterans
I recently read that Edgar Allan Poe suggested all short stories should have a single mood, and that each sentence should build towards that mood.

The author, whose blog I was reading, suggested that, in fact, short stories should revolve around a single transformative event which provides meaning to the story and causes change in the protagonist.

I've recently started to think more in terms of theme, as opposed only to story; so the background, the scenery, the characters, the buildings, the tiniest and simplest of details, are linked by theme.
 

JosephB

Senior Member
The author, whose blog I was reading, suggested that, in fact, short stories should revolve around a single transformative event which provides meaning to the story and causes change in the protagonist.

I don’t really see that in the short stories I like. At most I see the possibility of change, but often the fact that a character won’t or can’t change is what makes it compelling. An example would be Raymond Carver’s A Serious Talk -- one of my favorite short stories -- about a man who believes he can get his family back if he can just talk his ex-wife into it, despite how he certainly ruins his chances with his bad behavior when he visits his family on Christmas day. That pivotal event shows that he’s not capable of growth or change. To me, that’s more like life, and one of the reasons I like short stories -- because people rarely change or change all that much -- even under extraordinary circumstances. Or perhaps they simply rise to the occasion. But that's not necessarily about change either. I think it’s often more about how a given character reacts to events within a relatively brief window -- in a way you can imagine is true to form -- not how he or she is transformed by events.

I've recently started to think more in terms of theme, as opposed only to story; so the background, the scenery, the characters, the buildings, the tiniest and simplest of details, are linked by theme.

For good or bad, I don't think about themes. I just try to write something real, that feels true to life -- if I succeed, I believe a theme will emerge -- and it might even mean different things to different people. Sometimes I don't even recognize it until someone else sees it.
 
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Jon M

WF Veterans
Every six months a miner is fired or drafted or dies and is replaced by another, so that very early in his life Tom comes to see how the world continually drains itself of young men, leaving behind only objects--empty tobacco pouches, bladeless jackknives, salt-caked trousers--mute, incapable of memory.
Loved this. Makes me want to write the next LM in this way -- broad, sweeping strokes. Never wrote a story where I covered great distances of time before.

I've recently started to think more in terms of theme, as opposed only to story; so the background, the scenery, the characters, the buildings, the tiniest and simplest of details, are linked by theme.
Easy to go overboard with this, though. Before you know it your whole story is a symbol. I'm like Joe -- I don't think about themes much, I just wait for them to emerge. I trust that my subconscious is working much, much harder than I realize. All I have to do is connect the dots. :)
 

Staff Deployment

WF Veterans
I trust that my subconscious is working much, much harder than I realize. All I have to do is connect the dots. :)

I don't like connect the dots. The dots are just constructs of 'the man' trying to get us to draw what 'the man' wants.
I say the dots can go and form themselves into a bunch of ellipses, because I'm gonna use the blank page to draw a dragon eating a chupacabra while a crowd of goats watches and claps.
 

Bilston Blue

WF Veterans

I've recently started to think more in terms of theme, as opposed only to story; so the background, the scenery, the characters, the buildings, the tiniest and simplest of details, are linked by theme.

Easy to go overboard with this, though. Before you know it your whole story is a symbol. I'm like Joe -- I don't think about themes much, I just wait for them to emerge. I trust that my subconscious is working much,
much harder than I realize. All I have to do is connect the dots. :smile:

I agree, Jon, how easy it would be to overdo the theme. I remember reading a short story called Flight. The main character was looking for a way to split from his girlfriend, who in turn had run away from her home town, and during the story the mc considered jumping from the top of an apartment block, and later, on the Staten Island ferry, witnessed a man jump overboard. So, there's a strong theme there. Then, in a cab crawling through New York, a man walks up to the driver's window dressed in a Big Bird outfit. Overdoing it completely, I thought, if it was deliberate. Or an unfortunate coincidence missed by the author, but I doubt it.
 

dale

Senior Member
I don't like connect the dots. The dots are just constructs of 'the man' trying to get us to draw what 'the man' wants.
I say the dots can go and form themselves into a bunch of ellipses, because I'm gonna use the blank page to draw a dragon eating a chupacabra while a crowd of goats watches and claps.

well, from my experience, nothing pisses a chupacabra eating dragon off more than a herd of applauding goats. so at least one of the goats
would have to be a very heroic goat indeed to make a decent story.
personally, i always use the "connect the dots" technique, at least in regards to a short story. what happens between point A and point B
sometimes even amazes me.
 

Nickleby

WF Veterans
A good short story is something like a good painting. You enjoy it, but at first you're not sure why. Someone explains how your eye is drawn from place to place, how space and color balance, how things are almost but not quite real. You keep seeing things you hadn't noticed before. You have to keep reminding yourself that it's small enough for you to take in all at once.
 

Morkonan

WF Veterans
...Focus is the most important of these basic concepts; don't say it all just say what matters. Focus is used to more extremes in short story writing, which is like any other writing in that it shows something and than talks about it. In short stories the magnification is just brought up another notch to show even less in even greater detail, which tends to lend even more power to even the mundane subjects. ...

Everything you write contributes towards progressing the story. In fact, everything that you write must only do that, else you should not include it in the story, regardless of whether its a short story or an epic trilogy. If it doesn't progress the story in some way, it shouldn't be there at all.
 

Staff Deployment

WF Veterans
Everything you write contributes towards progressing the story. In fact, everything that you write must only do that, else you should not include it in the story, regardless of whether its a short story or an epic trilogy. If it doesn't progress the story in some way, it shouldn't be there at all.

But what about character development? That scene in the Avengers where the spy lady does a reverse interrogation to some vaguely foreign dudes didn't advance the story in the slightest.

And what about the fun stuff like a chapter of constant arguments or an extended physics-defying fight scene? None of that really develops the story, at least not until the end when one guy wins and the other doesn't. Until then, you'd think it'd just be wasting time.

Just like in any extended piece, in a short story pacing is very important. You don't want to spend 50 words describing a feeling of "entrapment" - the subject matter demands a more lengthy examination, even if it's just to make it feel longer and more trapped. That's just an example.
 
Everything you write contributes towards progressing the story. In fact, everything that you write must only do that, else you should not include it in the story, regardless of whether its a short story or an epic trilogy. If it doesn't progress the story in some way, it shouldn't be there at all.
I'd agree that everything in the story should be there for a reason. But I don't think movement toward the end is the only possible reason.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Focus is used to more extremes in short story writing, which is like any other writing in that it shows something and than talks about it.
I am not sure about the last part of this, I'll go with focus being important, a good short has a rat trap quality, it doesn't go round the houses. One way of helping to achieve this is to remove qualifying words and make things definite. For example take:-
In short stories the magnification is just brought up another notch to show even less in even greater detail, which tends to lend even more power to even the mundane subjects.
If it were in a short story I would make it:-

In short stories the magnification is increased to show less in more detail, which lends power, even to mundane subjects.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
“the magnification is just brought up another notch to show even less in even greater detail.”

“the magnification is increased to show less in more detail”

“detail gives power”

When editing down it is important not only to maintain the sense but to maintain aspects that give life and colour to the writing. To my mind the metaphor of the magnification does that, ‘up another notch’, fixing it to a gun sight, comes close to mixing metaphors for me. When it is reduced to the extent of the last example my feeling is that the meaning has changed somewhat, there was an implicit comparison between short stories and other types, and the mundane had a power that is increased by detail, these aspects are lost.

One could say, “Detail increases significance”, which is true, but even further from the original statement.
 

GonneLights

Senior Member
In shorts, magnified. Which also is a good example of double entendre.

There are lots and lots and lots of different philosophies in short story writing, none of which seem less valid than any other. I like the notion of Totalism, where everything has to tie in - as people talked about earlier, around a theme. Progress towards something, maybe. At least, be important. No faff. But, there are a lot of very good short stories that don't do that, and don't feel any need to do that, and loose ends lend thought to the imagination. The other option, a philosophy totally juxtaposed to totalism is that of ambiguity, where so much is left out that it leaves the reader to imagine as much as they can. If done with intention it is all art and can all be effective. One mustn't confine themselves to one way of thinking.

What's really left out, I think, is the Sketch. Like, 4-500 words, a single scene. The most economical way to express something. Everything is total and nothing is explained. Very interesting way to write, extreme restraint. Little output and a lot of thought. It's been taken up by Fanfiction communities, the most, recently, and they call it a Oneshot, which is a comic-book expression. I think they're unaware of it's popular 19th century origins...
 

Staff Deployment

WF Veterans
“Detail increases significance”

Ah, but see this loses the original meaning. There is no context of a short story, and there is no explanation of the detail. Mundanity is a key word because the idea is that you make these mundane aspects significant through an increased level of detail - a magnification, if you will.

So "in stories, detail gives power to mundanity" is about the lowest you can go in this abbreviated limbo without breaking your back, because it still retains the original intention: mundane aspects are more powerful when you look at them in such detail.
 
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