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Short Story Writing Tips

Short Story Writing Tips

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Short Story Writing Tips

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  1. Short Story Writing Tips How to Write Short Stories, Micro Fiction and Flash Fiction Please take out your Writer’s Notebook.

  2. Writer’s Notebook • After AW #9: Images, start a fresh page in your notebook in the Assigned Write section. • Label it: AW #10: Short Story tips. • Take notes from the lesson today, whether from the slide or from my comments, to get credit for this assigned write. • Make sure your notes are useful to you!

  3. Microfiction Page • This lesson and notes and samples are adapted from multiple sources and my own experiences teaching. • See the Microficiton web page I made for sources, samples, and resources.

  4. Definition of Short Stories, Flash Fiction, and Micro Fiction • The short story has long been popular as a form of fiction. In recent years, flash fiction and micro fiction have attracted fans and readers. These are literary forms separate and distinct from novels, plays, and poetry. • Short stories, flash fiction, and microfiction have become popular as quick reads for people with a busy schedule. Read on for tips on how to write them.

  5. Definition of Short Stories, Flash Fiction, and Micro Fiction • A short story is typically less than 10,000 words, with most publications asking for stories under 3,000. • Micro fiction lowers the word count to between 500 and 1,000. • Flash fiction, also called the short short story, has a top limit of 300 words.

  6. Microfiction/Flash Fiction • With the decreasing word limit, it becomes increasingly difficult to create a coherent story. The author doesn’t have the luxury of spending a page or two describing a character or revealing motivation. There isn’t much room for introspection or feeling. Everything must be revealed through the writing adage, “Show, don’t tell.”

  7. Soul-stirring Language • Choose your words carefully. You're using so few. • Prose poem from Charles Simic's Pulitzer Prize winning collection, The World Doesn't End. • The stone is a mirror which works poorly. Nothing in it but dimness. Your dimness or its dimness, who's to say? In the hush your heart sounds like a black cricket.

  8. Imagery • Here's the second paragraph of Francine Prose's "Pumpkins“: • Actually, she is beheaded, her body thrown from the car and decapitated with such force that the head sails through the air and lands in a pile of pumpkins spilled out onto the road.

  9. Just because it is short, doesn’t mean that it can be written quickly. Perhaps more than in longer forms of fiction, word choice (diction) is paramount. To get the exact feeling, impression, or word picture in the reader’s mind takes powerful wordsmithing. Many writers spend days and even weeks perfecting a short story for the desired impact.

  10. Writing Short Story Tips • Even though microfiction stories are extremely short, they still need to have a beginning, middle, and end. If they lack these elements, they become vignettes, or pictures, instead of stories. Every word must be deliberately chosen to enhance the story so all unnecessary words must be cut.

  11. Techniques to pack a story into such a small word count • Choose a small story idea. When writing flash or micro fiction, the writer should focus on one small story idea like a scientist focuses a microscope on an object. There isn’t time for grand plots and subplots. One small problem, situation, or event will fill the story. A small story idea will have few characters as well. Flash fiction and micro fiction only needs a main character and one or two supporting characters.

  12. Start with action • There is no room in the word count for backstory, so beginning the narrative in the middle of the action will hook the reader, and also give the story forward momentum. • Dialogue can be a good place to start, showing an important conversation or emotion.

  13. Raise a question that the reader will want answered. • This needs to be done immediately, right at the beginning of the story. Readers of flash fiction want something to read quickly, therefore, they need to be invested in the story from the first line.

  14. Use one focal theme in the story. • Since there is no room for subplots in micro or flash fiction, it should focus on one theme or feeling. This theme sets the mood. If the author uses one overall focal point or feeling, it will give the story continuity, instead of it being a disjointed account. The story will be a snapshot of an event in time, with all the parts fitting together.

  15. Play against expectations • Let the narrator tell the reader one thing, lead him in one direction while the text leads the reader in just the opposite. A Hyper Fiction Contest on NPR included this example. For a moment the reader may think it ends too soon: • The World's Shortest Horror Story: The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door.

  16. Maybe: Make the ending a surprise. • The ending is just as important as the beginning. The ending may be a twist, a surprise, or a shock. Whatever the author chooses, it should be something that the reader would agree was the logical thing to happen. • Even when it’s a twist, it must make sense to the story. The ending should result in a pay off to the reader for sticking with the story all the way through. When the ending ties up loose threads, answers questions, and gives an impact, the reader will feel satisfied.

  17. Use directive last sentence • Use a that gives narrative insight or opinion. • "In this way Fourati, as is well known, had ruined not only the lady's life but his own as well." • "He asked us what he should do to be freed from his guilty conscience, but we dared not give him any advice.“

  18. Make rereads necessary or at least inviting. • In "Three," Gordon Lish tells us three stories. He prefaces them with the statement, "One of them taught me the meaning of fear," but doesn't say which one. In the first story he talks to a woman who enjoys the funeral of her lover. In the second he sees a headless baritone on the subway that sings to Close with a phrase that sends the reader back into the story.

  19. Close with a phrase that sends the reader back into the story. • Then it might sink into the reader's own life. In Molly Giles, "The Poet's Husband," she writes, "...but later that night when she is asleep, he will lie in their bed and stare at the moon through a spot on the glass that she missed." Wow. What did she miss? We don't know, but within eighteen lines, just one sentence long, we're stirred to think about the loved ones of all the writers we know. How do they feel about the ways and places that our fiction intersects with their lives?

  20. Sample of Microfiction • As we look at the samples, notice things for us to discuss! • “Worry” by Ron Wallace • Epistolary form: relating to or denoting the writing of letters or literary works in the form of letters. • “Her Number” by Antonya Nelson

  21. Ideas for fiction so far • See opposite side of microfiction sample for story ideas. • Use a line from another story/novel to start a story of your own. • You can use the work that was already done in class, making it better and better. • Use an image and write the story of that image. • You can use the work you have done and make more of it. • You can find a new image and write the story of that image. • You can take multiple images and write the story of those images. • Take something true from your life experience and “fictionalize it.”

  22. Writing Time • Use the rest of the period to write. • Brainstorm ideas for fiction. • Work on your encyclopedia entries – 26 total. • Please respect the quiet. • Remember SWAG: Skills- Writing & Attitude Grade (points for using your time for writing)