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Drew
August 21st, 2004, 09:46 PM
Well, I am at it again! Thinking! Who would have thought! :p

I was laying in the bathtub thinking about how I should spend my writing session for the night. I was hoping to come up with an idea for a short story, only a few K words, that I could bring to some closure tonight. I am hitting blocks with my current, longer stories, so I thought that this could be a little break.

Anyway, about short stories. It seems to me that most short stories don't bring the story to a close at the end. There is always some cliffhanger, or a few ideas to expand upon. Sometimes we see short stories become expanded into longer works. So, I was thinking, how can one really tell a story in a few K words? I know it is not impossible, but it seems to be challenging to even the most gifted writers out there.

I suppose that I am just itching to finish something if only for the confidence boost it will bring me. It just feels like my job is never finished, I can easily hit about 10K words, but then I realize how crappy the concept or plotline is and trash it or begin rewriting it.

So... I guess I have deviated a bit... but how does one truly bring the story to a close? :confused:

Erebus
August 22nd, 2004, 02:23 AM
... but how does one truly bring the story to a close? :confused:


Well, I say why should we have to? I always try with my short stories to have a slight (sometimes not so slight) twist in the ending, or leave some issues just a tad unresolved so that you leave the reader thinking. That way, the readers' enjoyment will (hopefully) continue long after they've read the last written word. :)

My Tale Spin collection did just that and I have been applauded for the twists in the tales, so I guess it can work. I believe that telling a good story that a reader will enjoy does not necessarily need to have a finite ending or closure. Leave something to the readers' imaginations and they may just come back for more. Provided the story has the all-important beginning, middle and end, closure can be optional IMO, especially if it adds even more conflict, which as we all know, is the secret recipe for all successful stories - short or long!

JRMurdock
August 22nd, 2004, 02:44 AM
Perhaps I can shed some light on the topic of short stories. Let me try and explain why.

I wrote 3 and a half books and stopped writing because rejection letters were getting me down. I stopped for about 9 months and one day I thought, I have no pro writing experience. I guess I should get some. The only way to do that is through short stories. So I read a lot (mostly online). I like some, some were crap, others were brilliant. I wanted to join in.

I took a short story I'd been working on and was only a few paragraphs in. I had toyed with the idea of expanding it into a novel. Then I discovered flash fiction. I condensed the entire idea into 1000 words (999 to be exact). It was brutal. It wasn't easy. Then I tried for club 55 (a 55 word short story) and I tried Red Writing hood (a 100 word short story). Each was a challenge of equal merit. I learned from the weeks of writing those 3 stories (and so far 2 have been published, waiting to hear about club 55) that I could do shorts.

I started with a longer work that had been stuck in my head. When it was done, it was over 7K words. I still have not gotten this one published (many rejections though). I also wrote a 6.5K words story, a 5.5K words story and finally I was able to get a decent story in at just under 4K words. It took time. It took many re-writes. It's taken a great deal of practice to write a story that is interesting, gripping, and uses all the elements of a story. Just because a story has a hanging ending, it must have some conclusion. The character must have grown in some manner during the telling of the story. A short story is only a glimpse of a character. A portion of that induvidual's life, not their entire story.

Since writing those first stories, I was able to write more and more with fewer and fewer edits. I got faster (If I put my mind to it, I can write 5-6 stories in a week). What I ran into in the middle of my writing spree was a barrage of explanatory stories and 'generic' stories. I have pulled out of that slump and many of my more recent stories rival my first long works (the 5-7k stories). The trick to writing short stories is the same as wehn doing any type of art. Let me explain.

When I was in a band, we wrote songs. We practiced those songs. I sang them in my sleep and dreamed of drumming them out. We practiced 3-6 times per week for hours at a time. Playing the same songs over and over. Doing re-writes, rearrangements, change ups, dropping parts, adding parts, re-adding dropped parts. It was a lengthy and painful process. But when we were done, we would have songs we were proud of.

I have finally taken the stance with my writing. For a time, I didn't re-read any of my works. I wanted to press on and get past them. I have come to understand that if my own work didn't inspire ME to re-read it, why would anyone else want to read it once? As a writer (and specifically of short stories) I, and you, must be willing to write, re-read, re-write, over and over and over with the same story until it is the length, detail, and course the story needs. If you're going for short, try to determine where you've added too much and remove it. Try to decide what conversation elements you added that don't build the story. Figure out where you drone on and on about a point and remove it. Mostly, determine when the story is done. It doesn't matter if the character is alive, dead, or hanging off a cliff. You as the author know when the character has changed and when that particular portion of their story is done.

What does all this mean? I dunno. I guess to sum up all these thoughts, write your story (stories) until you feel they're done. If you're going for short, terriffic. If it ends up longer, make it a novella. If it ends up longer still, make it a novel. Never sell your story short as your readers will suffer from you attempting to cut off a story in the middle. Make sure when you read the story, it tells exactly what it needs to tell (and if it's a short story, nothing else). You must be the one who is satisfied when you're done.

KatG
August 22nd, 2004, 12:53 PM
Well, I am at it again! Thinking! Who would have thought! :p

I was laying in the bathtub thinking about how I should spend my writing session for the night. I was hoping to come up with an idea for a short story, only a few K words, that I could bring to some closure tonight. I am hitting blocks with my current, longer stories, so I thought that this could be a little break.

Anyway, about short stories. It seems to me that most short stories don't bring the story to a close at the end. There is always some cliffhanger, or a few ideas to expand upon. Sometimes we see short stories become expanded into longer works. So, I was thinking, how can one really tell a story in a few K words? I know it is not impossible, but it seems to be challenging to even the most gifted writers out there.

I suppose that I am just itching to finish something if only for the confidence boost it will bring me. It just feels like my job is never finished, I can easily hit about 10K words, but then I realize how crappy the concept or plotline is and trash it or begin rewriting it.

So... I guess I have deviated a bit... but how does one truly bring the story to a close? :confused:

You just told a story, Drew, a nice plaintive one, ending with "how does one truly bring the story to a close?" which is a pretty good ending. We tell short stories every day, we just don't notice. If you can tell someone how you got stopped by a cop for speeding, you can write a short story, or at least attempt it. It is challenging. A short story has a very spartan, direct plot, and everything is compressed, but the bones of the storytelling are the same as a longer work. I can't say I'm brilliant at it, as I like to meander, but for some story ideas, I just want to show one thing, a little story, and the short form works for that.

Your problem, though, doesn't sound like it's the endings; it's the beginnings. You're not letting yourself begin, mess up, go in a wrong direction for awhile while your mind works a few things out. You're just plopping down your 10K, deciding it's not perfect and scrapping the thing or trying to fix it when it may only be your initial raw fodder for the story that will eventually emerge. I totally understand the urge to rewind the tape -- I get caught in that myself -- but sometimes the only way to find your ending is to be totally lost for awhile. I've known a lot of authors to try and rush their texts, because they so very badly want to just finish the scene or the chapter or the whole shebang, but it very seldom works well. Even those with spare writing styles need to deal with timing, pacing, framing and rhythms, which may mean keeping writing onward even though it's crap, or coming up with something late in the story and working backwards, or just slowing down and letting the characters smell every blasted rose along the way until you know which roses you want. And then to end it, maybe you just stop when you can't take it anymore or maybe you have a goal in mind. Surprisingly, either type of ending may work. But it's very hard to find an ending if you won't let yourself truly begin.

Kilroy
August 23rd, 2004, 05:24 PM
Short Stories give a quicker return than any longer written prose. Novels take so much time and energy that sometimes one can get stalled. New ideas appear and new stories are formed... I've always had a 20 page curse that I would get caught up in a new idea 20 pages in my novels... Now, my biggest creation, is being written as a serial. I'm still working towards a much bigger picture in the story, but I still have self contained stories that others can enjoy without missing anything. It's like writing for a television series instead of a movie. Maybe one day I'll put them together into a novel, but I'm still young.

Shameless Self Promotion... For all the short stories referenced above visit The Azurerealm (http://www.geocities.com/theazurerealm)

Kilroy Was Here

ironchef texmex
August 25th, 2004, 03:13 PM
It's really not as restrictive as it sounds, Drew. Alot of novelist wrote very much like short story writers back in sci-fi's early days. one of them, a guy named Van Vogt, had a saying -- take the reader to a new place every eight hundred words. That's the way he wrote novels. His scenes would last for two or three pages, than *woosh*, next scene.

Do that and you have eight scenes to play with (some of the mag's get a little piqued with anything longer than 7k words). You can tell all sorts of stories in eight parts. Like Kat said, many stories don't need anywhere near that many. Just realize, these are going to be very "tight" stories. Only a few charcters, probably no long descriptions of atmosphere, not alot of transitions. These are the long distance runners of storytelling, just organs and a little bit of meat and bone.

Do an outline. If you can get from point A to point B in eight scenes or less it's a short story. If it's going to need many more than eight then it probably can't be told as a short.

Drew
August 25th, 2004, 03:49 PM
Well, it seems that most of my stories are more like novella length, that is if I could finish. I have several starts, most a few K to several K words, that still have a bit of juice. I am writing too short for novel, too long for shorts. It just seems to me that novella length works aren't the buzz. Personally, I can't really stand to read novella or novellete lenght works. I am up to the challenge though to make a short though.

Holbrook
August 25th, 2004, 04:54 PM
Why do you want to bring it to a close? To wrap up all the loose ends.

Personally I believe a short story is a snap shot of a small time in the life of the characters, they existed before the story began and some of them will exist after. A short story is just a day or event in the life of. It must make sense/draw you into their life for that event.

A novel is just a bigger longer version of the same. If you can convince your reader that after the page is closed your characters go on then you have created a believable story.