|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
THINK OF THIS AS A COMBINATION BETWEEN THAT CREATIVE WRITING CLASS YOU LOVED AND THE BIOLOGY CLASS YOU HATED
AT LEAST IN THIS DISSECTION YOU GET TO HOLD ON TO LUNCH
All right, so we've opened this series by talking about the chapter as a serial short story, one that doesn't resolve everything and frequently will introduce new twists and questions. Now let's look at the short story as an individual form. But first, we should lay down a few parameters.
A short story can be something as brief as a paragraph or two that qualifies as 'flash fiction'. This is a form that is difficult to construct and have it be anything more than an interesting novelty. Most short stories range from a few thousand words to near novella length, about thirty thousand words.
As a rule, a short story is concise with a limited number of characters. You're not going to stuff far ranging fiction into these clothes. What you are going to create is something that cannot contain the breadth and detail for a novella or novel but is still a complete entity. It is a story built around an event or conflict that occurs between as few people as possible and can be brought to a climax in a fairly tight space.
Notice I didn't say resolution. There are all kinds of great short stories that do not come to resolution. They present a conflict and, often, a climax to the action that leaves you a) wanting more, or b) stunned at the ending. A great example of the latter form is Edgar Allen Poe's, The Casque Of Amontillado.
As is said over and over, one of the best ways to learn what makes up a good short story is to read a lot of short stories. Some of the best authors of short fiction are Raymond Carver, Kate Chopin, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Joyce Carol Oates, Flannery O'Connor, and John Updike. Is this a comprehensive list? By no means. There are literally hundreds of above average writers of short fiction.
The flip side of the coin is to learn to recognize bad short fiction, and read it also. Why adulterate your thinking with a bad example? Because you are about to give up reading for entertainment and take up reading as an exercise in learning what comprises good and bad writing. Then you will be able to incorporate those good things you find into your own writing, while avoiding the mistakes made by the less than accomplished. (And remember, we're writers, and therefore honorable, we never STEAL from one another. No more than musicians or painters...)
Tomorrow we'll take a look at reading "deliberately" and why your enjoyment factor is about to suffer a paradigm shift.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis