Welcome Wednesday guests for September:
9/03 Beach-Read novelist, Mary Hogan (Two Sisters);
9/10 Fast-track Guppy Annette Dashofy (Lost Legacy);
9/17 Florida Coast author, Terrie Farley Moran (Well Read, Then Dead);
9/24 Cozy Confection author, Kathy Aarons (Death Is Like A Box Of Chocolates).


Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.


Don't miss next month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.


KM Rockwood's short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Read a Short Story

Starting with this introduction, Writers Who Kill will be presenting a series of holiday short fiction by our regular bloggers. The pictures are of two of my favorite short story authors, Poe and Hawthorn.

All of us are experienced at writing short. That experience varies but that should only add to your pleasure with our work. I will let the others tell you about their experience when they present their story if they wish to do so. A good story holds up regardless of the author’s biography. So don’t think about who we are, only about what we write.

To prepare you for the series, here are some suggestions to help you read a short story. As with all writing, these are not rules but guideposts.

When most people think of a short story they think of length. How many words? True I carefully track of how many words there are in all my works¸ but there is way more to what makes up a short story than the number of words it contains. Short stories are to be read and enjoyed, not classified. So don’t worry about how long it is.

Short stories are found in as many genres and cross-genres as any fiction. You might be treated to humor, history, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction and more. Or any combination. I’m sure that in the selection we will present, you will find several stories that appeal to you.

A short story has to be compact without feeling heavy. Each word has to contain the most meaning possible, but the result should not read like a tightly packed brick. A short story writer benefits from a good vocabulary. Stories can be tightened by changing “she ran down the street as fast as she could” to “she fled down the street” or simply “she fled.”

Every word has to move the plot ahead, so don’t expect full explanations. If the color of the suspect’s dress moves the story forward you will be told it is red, because later a red dress appears in the crowd and catches the eye of the protagonist. If not forget it. But don’t take the mention of something in the story to be the presentation of a clue. There are other ways to move the story ahead besides a parade of clues. Maybe that red dress is a distraction so the detective misses the real clue. I do have to admit to telling that the protagonist in my most recent work bought parsnips at the market when it made not the slightest difference to the story, while her purchase of eggs did. As I say these are suggestions not rules.

You will not be told what happens before or after the story, so be prepared to fill in with your own imagination. The most frequent question I get is something like “Did they get married?” Not in this story they didn’t. Maybe in the next one. The writer may not tell you what kind of poison was used, or the make of gun the killer used, unless you need to know.

A short story has to have a single plot, no subplots. Don’t expect complex relationships among the characters. This may come out in bits and pieces if it is part of a series. Setting is sparse, but if the writer is good, vivid.

In the single arc of a short story the tension increases to near the end and resolves itself quickly. The denouement, if there is one, is short.

As I said, short stories are most often defined by their length. There are weird names, like Flash and Drabble assigned to each category. The lengths and the names change often enough so that I am not going to list them. The story is to be enjoyed. Knowing that it is a short-short or something else will neither add to nor detract from that enjoyment.

So, savor our Holiday Offerings.

3 comments:

Pauline Alldred said...

Short stories are like talking with a friend about a crisis he/she is facing. I've found out that saggy middles aren't only in novels. I've read short stories where I start thinking, will the author get back to the point. Perhaps the author fell in love with a character and had to develop that character further or the dialogue just kept rolling beyond what was needed for the story.

Warren Bull said...

How strange. I'm reading Tuesday's blog on Tuesday. I would add that a short story arc has a beginning middle and end but rarely starts at the beginning. It gives a brief or implied back story but immediately drops you into the active middle or close to the end and invites you to hang on for the ride. Writing just enough back story is part of the art of writing short fiction. See Pauline's comments above.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, I've tried to write short stories without adding backstory and it doesn't work. When a story is presented in the short form, that little bit of backstory provides the glue allowing brevity. When my critique partners told me to add backstory, I was hesitant. Backstory! But you must or the story falls apart.