1. Akhera
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    Akhera Member

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    Always too epic

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Akhera, Oct 23, 2010.

    I've been having a big problem recently with my writing. Actually it's the thinking about the plot I have problem with. I always try to make a short story I can actually finish someday, but as I thing about the plot more, I always turn it into some grand epic story that would span an entire book (maybe even more than one), decide I don't want want to ruin such a great and complex story with sloppy writing and put it aside for later. I then come up with a different idea and the process repeats. I simply don't know how to come up with simple short stories. Any advice about that? How do you make up short stories?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Step 1: find the outline you have shelved. (Even if said outline is in your head, although having a timeline map on paper of what will happen helps me a LOT.)

    Step 2: Write it. Tell the inner editor to shut up and just write it.

    Step 3: Go back a few weeks later, once you've had some time to look at it objectively, and edit it. Tweak the parts that you think suck. Have a writer friend edit it. Etc.

    As for short stories, I make them up as I go, I only use the plot-mapping stuff for novels.

    If you need more help, let me know and I'll try my best. Really though you just need to get a grip on it and DO it. :D
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't tell it all. The untold and unresolved can be you best friend. Readers are smart, let them find their own truth in you writing.

    Shift you thinking from writing a "story" to writing one, or a few scenes that should feel meaningful standing on their own.
     
  4. Akhera
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    Akhera Member

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    Well, that's the problem - my ideas for stories usually feel meaningless without some broader context.

    And I just can't go back to any of the larger stories. I'm in a desperate need of finishing something. I've not finished a single story in the last three years.
     
  5. Egil1Eye
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    Egil1Eye Member

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    There's an old trick that I remember from my old school days.

    Get out a magazine, or any book that you find interesting, open it to a random page or picture, now write a story that ends with that picture.;)
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A short story should typically focus on a single central conflict. Keep to the point, and don't wander off on subplots.

    Short stories on the longer end of the range can handle a little more complexity, but practice focusing on single-crisis stories until you find your focus.

    I've deliberately repeated the key concept in this: focus.
     
  7. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well. Then you identified you problem. Read short stories and identify how other people pull off stories without a broader context. Learn from it, almost copy it if you have to a few times for practice (copying great masters is a great way to learn) and use the same techniques.

    Go through you own short stories and identify what elements of them that needs a broader context. Fix them.
     
  8. Akhera
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    Akhera Member

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    w176 - Yeah, that may be the problem - I don't read short stories that much.

    Thank you all. You have been very helpful.
     
  9. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why did you expect to be able to write stories in the first place then if you don't read sort stories? Magical understanding? Divine knowledge?
     
  10. Akhera
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    Akhera Member

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    I do read them, but it's been some time since I read any a I didn't read that many of them. And I also didn't think thare was that much difference between short and long stories.
     
  11. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    You need to think of a short story as a singular piece, with a singular idea. Short stories are not compressed novels; they are snippets of a moment, or a short period of time.

    They either need to be punchy or educational, and must get to the point very quickly.
    If it's clouded in surplus info-dumping or twists too big for the story, then the conflict will never be clear or enticing.

    Suspense is everything in a short story. Lenghty pieces with too many ideas swimming about will not keep anyone's interest; it will confuse and bore the reader.

    Keep it simple, keep it sharp. That's all I can say.

    Edit: Oh, and you really do need to read short stories. Try Hemmingway, Poe, Lovecraft and Roald Dahl for some great examples. However, you should branch out to smaller presses and new writers as well. You can learn a lot from the great writers, but style is only something you can imitate. Try reading both genre and literary magazines to get a feel for what publishers enjoy. Pill Hill Press have a large number of short story anthologies, which cover every theme and genre imaginable.

    There's an entire wealth of short fiction out there for you to take advantage of. Reading is vital. If you don't read it, you can't learn from it.
     
  12. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    This. This is the number one mistake people make when trying to write short stories. They assume that short stories are just miniature novels, when they are actually completely different. The rules, aims and content are very different, so you need to be familiar with the intricacies.

    The thing with short stories, is that you'll have to do more to hunt it out. Ashleigh is exactly right about needing to look for literary magazines and anthologies. You could also look for podcasts, as there are some very good short fiction podcasts out there, and they're almost always free.

    But the main thing to do is to read the kind of thing that you're trying to produce, and learn from them, rather than trying to produce a novel in brief.
     
  13. Tessie
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    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi, Akhera.

    It seems that your problem is that your brain works in a longer-conflict pattern (and that isn't a bad thing). A short story usually centers around one main conflict. They don't feature other sub-plots, and so my advice would be to just simplify. Bring the broadness of your ideas down to a single theme or conflict, and you'll do well. :)
     
  14. Tyrolancer
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    Tyrolancer New Member

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    An analogy that might help...

    Short stories are to novels as short films are to movies.

    In other words, short stories are just the short films of the writing world. If you've ever seen a short film, it's almost like they took a feature film, cut out all of the subplots and focused on one main plot.

    You don't have 2 hours for your short film. You have 10 minutes. Sometimes you may have 30 or 45 minutes, but most short films these days hover between 8-13 minutes. That's half of the average sitcom played on TV. It's not that much time.

    That's why word economy is so important in a short story. Every single word, every single action, every single scene has to have meaning. Unlike novels, where you can weave things in and out everywhere, you really need to cut away every little bit of fat from the meat when you write a short story.

    Some tales are meant to be told as short stories. Some tales are meant to be told as novels. Imagine trying to tell the entire story of The Usual Suspects or The Matrix or Shawshank Redemption in 10 minutes. It's not going to happen.

    As a writer, it's your job to determine the best way to tell your tale.
     
  15. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    The Shawshank Redemption was a short story. By Stephen King.
     
  16. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Yes, this is good advice. I also find reading bad stories helpful :eek: Say for example read the stories in this forum, select the stories which are well written but somehow not working for you, then try to identify why it is so and offer suggestions to improve it. In doing so some of the problems you might have will become clear to you.
     
  17. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is not true. It's a novella. It's at least 40,000 words long. Not the same thing as a short story at all.
     
  18. afrodite7
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    afrodite7 Senior Member

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    -use a short story to capture a moment or situation.with your long stories take notes on it and map out important events,any thing thats important to the plot.have a basic plotline and basic chaarcters.when you're ready to write it,just jump right in ! :)
     

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