If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

Check out our February author interviews: 2/7-debut author Keenan Powell (Alaskan lawyer), 2/14-Leslie Wheeler (Rattlesnake Hill), 2/21-bestselling author Krista Davis, who unveils a new series, 2/28-Diane Vallere answers my questions about Pajama Frame. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

Our February Saturday Guest Blogger Schedule: 2/3-Saralyn Richard, 2/10-Kathryn Lane. WWK's Margaret H. Hamilton will blog on 2/17, and Kait Carson on 2/24.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM has had the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," appears in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Warren and Nancy Pickard Discuss Short Stories

Warren Bull and Nancy Pickard Discuss the Mystery Short Story"

Note from Warren: I've been working with this text for hours and I cannot get the format to appear as I want it. The errors are mine. Please see the Border Crime page in Facebook for a more readable copy.

Sisters in Crime Feb. 5, 2011 Meeting

“When the two riders appeared out of nowhere, I knew they came to kill my pa.” So begins our own Warren Bull’s short story, “Beecher’s Bibles.” 
That first line gives a sense of time. “Those two riders aren’t on Harleys,” Warren said. The word “pa” also implies it’s historical. Finally, it sets the scene for the story and draws the reader in. What happens next?

 Warren invited friend and fellow short story writer Nancy Pickard to help him present the February program on writing mystery short stories. The first line of the story is crucial, and Warren said it can take as long to come up with the right first line as it takes to write the rest of the story. 
Warren got his start writing short stories because of the Manhattan Mystery Conclave’s contest. (For which he wrote the winning story!) Since then, he’s had a number of stories published and now has his own collection of short stories available: Murder Manhattan Style. 
Short stories present different challenges from writing novels. You don’t have a lot of words.

Here are some of the elements discussed by Warren and Nancy:

• Characterization must be achieved quickly. Warren said that can be accomplished with a few well-chosen words of description, such as this line: “When I met her, I figured she was the sort of girl who ironed her own socks.” Dialogue helps define character and Warren finds writing in first person does, too.

• Pacing must be tight. Action must start immediately in a short story. It’s a struggle for horror writers who like to set up the mood and atmosphere, said Nancy. 

• A crucible moment should be part of every short story, according to Harlan Ellison, Nancy said. That’s a severe test that may be the most important moment in that character’s life.

• Epiphany is another important element in a short story. Every story needs that “ah-ha” moment, said Nancy. Learning that at a writer’s conference at William Jewell College in the early 1980s completely changed her approach to writing short stories, she said, and she was much more successful after that. 

• The iceberg describes the form of a short story, according to Ernest Hemingway. Warren said what you see and read in the story is only part of what’s going on.

• Endings of mystery short stories do tend to be resolved and tied up neatly – frequently with a twist – and often with plenty of surprises along the way, as opposed to the sometimes ambiguous endings of literary short stores. 

You can see these elements in Nancy’s and Warren’s favorite short stories. Nancy likes “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” by Hemingway (read it at http://www.mrbauld.com/hemclean.html )and “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger (read it at http://www.nyx.net/~kbanker/chautauqua/jd.htm )

One of Warren’s favorites is short enough to be reprinted here in its entirety: 

The Soap Bubble

It is.

It was.

“It’s a completely satisfying story with a popping good ending,” Warren said.

Other advice: 
Follow the directions exactly for submissions to contests, anthologies and magazines. Don’t believe that if the editor likes the story enough, he or she will take the time to correct grammar, punctuation and format. (As a former magazine editor, I cannot emphasize this one enough. Editors are stressed-out people with too much to do; make their jobs easier and they’ll love you.)

Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock magazines.
E-zines. Check out http://sandraseamans.blogspot.com/ for a list. 
Contests such as the one for Mystery Writers of America. 
More info:
 Warren’s blog at http://Writerswhokill.blogspot.com/


E. B. Davis said...

All of your advice is right on target. It takes a while to understand the art of short story writing, but they are very satisfying to a writer because the work's completion doesn't take as long as a novel. I've always loved shorts, but didn't actually study them until I wanted to write them. When you do "get it right," you know it.

E. B. Davis said...

P.S. Blogger isn't working well for us today, which may affect comments left for this blog. Blogger!

Pauline Alldred said...

Great advice. Thanks for the blog, Warren and Nancy.

Warren Bull said...

This blog is not pretty, but it's up. Whew.

Ramona said...

I usually only read pretty posts, but I'll make an exception this time. ;-)

Warren and Nancy, thanks for sharing excellent advice. I especially love the crucible moment. I have to think about that one.

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for your indulgence, Ramona.

jennymilch said...

Great perspectives on a challenging medium. This is one to read again and then again...