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Focused Short Story Writers (1 Viewer)

Kyle R

WF Veterans
mundane aspects are more powerful when you look at them in such detail.

I'd describe "mundane aspects being looked at in detail" as introspection--be it introspection of the narrator or the main character. With such, though, there is no story, there is only depth.

I believe the best short stories strike a balance between depth (vertical; insights and thematic comparisons) and story movement (horizontal; actions, events, and characters doing things over time).

Sometimes Literary Fiction gets classified as boring when the introspective aspect of it outweighs the story movement.

On the other end of the spectrum, stories with mostly story movement but little introspection are sometimes called "shallow" or "genre-specific".

So, at least for me, something to remember is to try to strike a healthy balance between the two. Personally, I aim for a one-to-one ratio: 50% introspection and 50% story movement. That's just my approach, though, but I think it's something writers should consider when looking at their own scenes.

:encouragement:
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
depth (vertical; insights and thematic comparisons) and story movement (horizontal; actions, events, and characters doing things over time).
An interesting differentiation that strikes me as potentially very useful.
 

Cran

Da Boss Emeritus
Patron
I believe the best short stories strike a balance between depth (vertical; insights and thematic comparisons) and story movement (horizontal; actions, events, and characters doing things over time).
That is a good way to look at it.
 

Morkonan

WF Veterans
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.

I didn't see "The Avengers."

But, I should have been more descriptive. By "progressing the story" I mean that whatever you write must be written, as lasm stated, "for a reason."

Now, that shouldn't be taken to mean that just any old reason will do! For instance, in your "character development" skit, does it serve a purpose? And, importantly, does that purpose contribute towards advancing the story? In this, you're advancing the story by doing necessary character development work, not necessarily advancing the plot. Though, ideally, you'd strive to do both.

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.

What's your job, as a writer? Your job is to force readers to read your story. If you story is not entertaining, nobody is going to read it. So, yes, you might have to add things in order to make your story more entertaining! That advances your purpose and the "story" in general. To me, a "story" is much more than just a plotline. It's the entire experience presented to the reader by the writer. In that context, doing necessary character development work and adding entertaining deviations are both parts of advancing, to the reader, the "story." Otherwise, we'd just write "I am.", slap a title on it and be done.

But, you have to weigh anything that distracts from your efforts very carefully. For instance, in the piece you mentioned, did that distract you as a viewer? Did it cause you to pause in your attentiveness or enjoyment of the story? Did it fail to make sense and, therefore, impact your ability to suspend your disbelief? If such a scene did any of these things or is something that you didn't enjoy, then it was "wrong." Nobody is perfect, so every story has its flaws. The trick is making those flaws so insignificant when compared to the overall effect of the story that they go unnoticed. If you noticed this and it failed to perform its intended function, then it should have bee struck from the script.

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.

Absolutely! You don't have time to bog down the reader, especially since proper pacing is sometimes difficult to achieve. One thing about short stories is that it seems one must pay much more attention to one's choice of words. Every word counts. While regurgitating a thesaurus might not be desirable, opening one and choosing the correct word certainly may be.
 

Morkonan

WF Veterans
... I believe the best short stories strike a balance between depth (vertical; insights and thematic comparisons) and story movement (horizontal; actions, events, and characters doing things over time).

Thanks for reminder!

I might just print that out and tape it to the hutch in front of my desk. :D
 

TheWritingWriter

Senior Member
Normally participating in online forums (this is my fourth forum across the web) helps me to stay "in the groove," if you will. Also, reading and revising others' works help me stay on task, as well. When you are constantly being given advice and tips and even are helping others with their work, many learning opportunities present themselves, allowing you to apply valuable information to your own work.
 

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. ...

I just wanted to add a comment to this:

With a novel, you have a bucket of paint to work with. With a short-story, you only have a pint. Yet, you still must produce a full picture within either format.

That means that, as you say, "the magnification is just brought up another notch" in a short story. But, it's not, exactly, magnification. You can "magnify" all sorts of things in any format, not just in a short. Instead, in the short, there aren't a lot of distractions detracting from your focus point. There's no guy trying to photo-bomb the picture you're creating! In a novel, you may have to actually "work hard" to bring a certain element in your story into clear focus for the Reader. In the short, you just don't have a lot of clutter that you have to move around in order to focus.

Also, shorts can blatantly break certain conventions. For instance, you don't have to spend five pages building up a romance between two characters. The reader doesn't expect that from you. Instead, you can just "Tell" the Reader about the Romance and use all sorts of overly dramatic prose to describe it. You have space restrictions and, don't worry, it'll be alright.

The brush you're using doesn't have to be narrow, just because you don't have a lot of paint. In fact, if you paint with a big, fat, brush, you're putting a great deal of emphasis on the strokes you are able to complete with that little bit of paint. Shorts tend to be like that - Memorable Protagonists that jump out of the page, Antagonists that are implacable foes, Sidekicks that the Protagonist could never do without and Loves that are eternal. The Goals and Obstacles that need to be overcome are typically as imposing as possible. There's a theme, here - Shorts can often take things to extremes and it's OK.

But, in the same breath, a Short can do a very good job of focusing on one small feature that would typically go ignored in a full length book. For instance, thirty pages written on a character's experience after she finds an old birthday card in the attic would probably not be a good waste of space in a full length book, no matter how much you loved the piece. But, for a Short, it's perfect! Shorts are great for focusing on things that would get trounced upon in a larger story.

Shorts aren't the place for complex plots - There's not enough paint! You won't find any lengthy or convoluted sub-plots in them, either. Instead, they're fairly straightforward, either obeying the laws of a "Story" in which events simply just follow, one after the other, until the end or the dictates of the "Plot" in which events revolve around some causal condition that the character is moving through. Since it's sometimes unrewarding to write about simple causal relationships (and probably unrewarding to read them) it's no wonder that "Stories" seem to dominate the Short genre. Stories just move through events, ignoring the elements of "Plot" in favor of offering insight or discourse into a particular subject. IF there IS a plot, it's going to usually be just an obvious causal relationship between immediately identifiable components and the "Story" is examining one of those components with a purpose other than examining the causal relationship. (ie: Parents are getting divorced, child examines not the cause of the divorce or the parents relationship or even how the the child feels about it, but, instead, examines the expression of the wife as she is served by a Process Server with the divorce papers. That examination may not be worth thirty pages in a Novel, but would be excellent for a Short.)
 

Leyline

Honoured/Sadly Missed
WF Veterans
Shorts aren't the place for complex plots - There's not enough paint!

I could sit here all day and name short stories that roll on the floor laughing at that statement. :)
 

Gavrushka

WF Veterans
I wish I'd found this thread earlier!

When I started writing, I launched into three very long stories which took around three years of my writing time... Even though I have rewritten one, I still see a massive chasm between them and where I would like them to be.

Anyway, on topic, three weeks ago I wrote a short story (6,500) words over the course of a week or so. - I'd never read anything specific about how it should be done, but the analogy I applied is that it should be like a longish joke with a powerful punchline... I think I learned far more about writing in those few thousand words than I have done in the million or so substandard words I'd written prior.

There is one other thing - It is the first time I have ever written 'unpolluted' by the opinions of others. - Something inside me snapped, and I think I finally 'get' writing. I feel you don't get chances in a short story; get it wrong, even once, and you lose.

I think because I'd never read what 'should' be the convention for a short story, I likely broke most of the 'rules...'

But then again, I feel there should be only one rule, and that is to engage the reader from the very first line, and never let them off the hook until they've reached the last one.
 

johnl

Senior Member
I'll write a reply, since I'm a recently new member andam supposed to post things.
So I'll post some hopefully useful things about writing a short story. All aremy opinion, of course.


First need to know the grammar of writing anything, again, of course.
This is how to use grammar. My point of view. Start with words, put words togetherto make phrases, put phrases together to make segments, put segment together tomake sentences. Make simple sentences, compound sentences, and complex sentences.Then put sentence together to make paragraphs. Put paragraphs together tomake the composition. With the composition made the writing is complete, fromthe grammar point of view.

To make a short story need to put all the grammar in an order to make a plot.The plot has 5 parts: the beginning, raising action, climax, falling action,and conclusion.

If you literally did the above it would be a very boring story.

So to make a non-boring story, you need ideas, characters, settings, dialog,and all these "type of things" that are forever talked about. (youalways have these "types of things", because you keep them, by writing them down, as youthink them up, separately, then put then together for a story)

If you forever talk about these things, the things in the above two sentences, you willnever complete writing a story. So write several short stories first, maybe1000 words, for practice and quickly. Concentrate on using the grammar and plot,only, as written about above. In thetime of one, two, or three hours. Then you will know how to complete thestory you want to write, which is a non-boring story.

 
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