Review of "Writing short stories"

published 13/06/2001 | Bryn_Pearson
Member since : 21/05/2001
Reviews : 417
Members who trust : 42
About me :
Excellent
Pro the most versatlie writing form.
Cons It takes time to perfect any skill.
very helpful

"More than just a story that happens to be short."

There is more to short story writing than putting down in a few pages the outline of a tale that would make a good film or novel. Most people who hope to be writers and who are just starting out tend to asusme that a short story is like a tiny book, but this isn't true. The forms and conventions of short stories are very different and need to be properly considered.

If you want to read around, there are plenty of good anthologies you can pick up - The Norton Anthologies of American and English lierature are huge tomes containing some varied and inspiring writing. A trip to your library should furnish you with some good reading material. I would recommend you have a look at Edgar Allen Poe, Margaret Attwood, D.H. Lawrence, and Oscar Wilde, although there are no shortage of other greats, these just happen to be my favourites.

In a short story, every word is vital and must be carefully chosen - you have very little time and space in which to make an impression and the effect of every simgle word must be considered. Short stories can take a long time to write. There are plenty of people who consider this finely worked literary form to be more creative than the longer novel. Do not assume that if you churn out a few thousand words in an hour or so that you will have created anything of literary value. Its harsh, but it must be said. Writing is a skill that it takes time to learn. You wouldn't expect to pick up a paintbrush and suddenly be doing lifelike portraits - don't assume that you will be able to write good fiction straight away. As we use language all the time, we all tnd to assume that we have the skills to be good writers. Largely this just isn't true. Having legs does not make you a good runner, having a pen does not make you a good writer. Expect to have to work at it.

There are a few standard features of the short story. Many depend on a twist, usually close to the end. Don't feel obliged to stick slavishly to this. Using a small situation to imply a bigger picture or an entire life is interesting and very effective. By showing a little piece of something, you can hint at the whole. By showing a part of a person, you can imply a whole. Suggesting, implication and hint are key to the sucess of a story - because you don't have the space to spell everything out. You have to leave quite a lot to the reader. Playing with conventions can be an excellent feature of the short story - take something familiar and then lead the reader off down some dark and unexpected alleyway.....

As with the novel, features like pace, setting, narrators, characterisation, atmosphere, events, structure, prose style etc are important and must be considered. A short story needs a good plot or concept just as much as a novel does.You will only have your reader's attention for the short duration of your text, so you will have to come up with something striking and original if they are going to remember you.Take you time to plan and consider what you will write - some people can jsut make up a story as they go along and put it straight down onto the page. Either that story won't be up to much, or the person in question will have been writing for so long that the words flow freely and well from them.

Short stories make excellent sketch pads. if you are contemplating a book but do not know where to start, then sketching out scenes and characters with short stories can be an excellent way of developping your ideas. It has many advantages - you will have complete units of work that you can show to people in order to elicit encouragign remarks. You will have a selection of useable material if you don't get round to writing the book and by the time you start turning those early ideas into books they will be really well developed in your mind.

I happen to like writing short stories, partly as sketches and partly because I think they are the most versatile writing medium. In those few pages, you can use styles that would be unreadable over a whole book - poetic influences and stream of consciousness can be fantastic in short texts, and the scope for innovation is enormous. Many subjects and ideas are best presented in a compact and focused tale rather than stretched to breaking point in a longer piece.

Anyone curious enough to read my work, there are some details in my "About me" section which will point you in the right direction.

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Comments on this review

  • jeffe published 24/03/2005
    This was indeed VH. Thank you for writing this piece, i'll keep it in mind when trying to write my short stories :)
  • KarenUK published 22/02/2002
    As you know, I'm trying my hand at writing short stories now.
  • kingsanj published 20/06/2001
    Really usefull op. Am trying to write a short story but keep getting distracted by Ciao ... Doh!
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Ciao

Listed on Ciao since: 01/02/2001