1. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    Depressing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by NRG, Aug 30, 2010.

    OK, so I have an idea for a short story and it's the first short, depressing story I've written. Basically, it involves a man who meets a girl who he instantly falls in love with. Unfortunately, days after they meet, a civil war begins brewing in the country and their families are on different sides. The man, finding that his side plans on bombing near the girls family, asks her to run away with him. She agrees, but later fears her family is in danger. They decide to run back to find information on when the bombing is to give her family information so they can escape. Unfortunately, in the time that they've been gone, the army the man's family is in has been searching for him. They catch him and execute his girlfriend. His family, having high power in the army, manage to get him off the death sentence by saying it was all her fault. He later returns to the field where the two first met and commits suicide.

    Now, I know this sounds a bit strange. I plan on writing it in flashbacks. Starting with him at the field, about to commit suicide and reflecting back on his feelings the moment the girlfriend was shot. He then reflects on how they first met and it goes in chronological order from there. Finally, the story ends with the line it began with:

    "A gunshot, and it was all over."

    So, I've got a few problems I'm thinking of right now, but the main one is that I'm not sure how to right it. I've never written a depressing, reflective piece before, and I'm not sure how to start it and make transitions from one flashback to another. I'm not very experienced with first person either.

    Well, anyway, thanks for reading and I'd appreciate any help!:D
     
  2. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, you could just line up the flashbacks, without any further exposition, and make it clear from context when they take place and how they relate to each other. Readers are very good at filling in the blanks, as long as you provide the necessary clues.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just because something is depressing in subject matter doesn't mean the story can't contain warmth and humour, type Alan Bennett into youtube he writes some amazing deep stories in a warm and funny way, he wrote many monlogues for TV. The good of the human condition shown through bad circumstances is what gives a story pathos and power.

    Not sure if Youtube has it but Cream Cracker Under the Sofa is about an old lady who has fallen, isn't find and I seem to remember it ended because she died. Another I think it is Lady of Letters is about a lady who is in prison because of her poison letter writing. These stories are incredbly deep and sad, but I remember parts of them vividly twenty years after watching them.

    EDIT: Cream Cracker isn't there but Lady of Letters is.
     
  4. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, if it's first person you're a lot more free to weave the flashbacks into the narrative. However, that way you do need a lot of things to trigger them - generally try and find something for him to look at/hear/smell that reminds him of the flashback in question. They'd be out of sequence, but probably all the more powerful for it. You might need a bit more action than just sitting in the field to get all the memories in - write his journey to it as well, or something. A last walk through the neighbourhood or something.

    My initial thought before you said "flashback" was that the story sounded way, way too long for a short story. :p Shorts tend to focus on a moment or single scene or two. However, as you're doing flashbacks, the whole thing technically takes place in one scene, so you can get away with that. :p I'd say there's at least a novella in there if you wrote it chronologically start to finish... A whole novel if you picked up other viewpoints like his family's. :p

    Anyway, point is, that you've picked the best way to tell it already... Give masses of description - emotional and physical - of the death scene, and use those descriptions to delve deep into his memories...

    Good luck writing :p
     
  5. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    Thanks for the help guys! I understand what you mean when you say it could be an entire novel or novella, I was originally thinking of that, but I've already got a few stories on my plate and I want it to be just a short, deep piece, that's why I think it works best as a short story with flashbacks. Also, I like the idea of triggers for his flashbacks, I'll play around with that.

    Again, thank you all! :D
     
  6. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you want the reader to come out with more than just "Oh man, what a downer story...", you might wanna consider making the love experience between the two a central focus point.

    Not quite the same, but with many similarities: watch the old anime "Grave of the Fireflies". It's about a boy and his little sister who're trying to survive through World War 2 in Japan. The story is also structured as a flashback, is very depressing, but has a lot of heart because it focuses on the characters strong points.
     
  7. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    Thanks, I've just been reading through what I've already got, and realised that I haven't really focused on the love enough. Thanks for the suggestion! :D
     
  8. T.N. Tobias
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    T.N. Tobias Member

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    The parallel flashback structure works well also. The present story thread and the past story thread build in intensity through breaks in the narrative. By the end, the past story line feeds the climax of the current story line. Does that make sense? Illustrated:

    A=Current
    B=Past

    A, Intro -> B,Problem -> A,Reflection and Complication -> B, Stakes are raised -> A, Despair at current condition -> B, Rising Action -> A, Climax
     
  9. stubeard
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    stubeard Active Member

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    Firstly, I think you should write it, rather than right it :p

    Secondly, I'd echo Melzaar's point: how short are you intending this to be? Sounds like a medium-sized novel to me. For example, I don't think the reader will believe the love between the two characters if you either just tell them or don't give them enough information to go on. A standard device is for them to have a fight and then make up afterwards, showing how good they are together and how their relationship is built to last - you could write a short story of what happens up until the war breaks out!

    Thirdly, if you have no experience writing harrowing short stories - get some! Star by reading some others, but if you've done that already, just get writing! See how it turns out. Then you can look back and revise it, refine it, write another, write another, come back to this if you like. The only way to get experience writing stories is to write them!
     
  10. ChicagoDave
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    ChicagoDave Member

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    So on the first page, we know the protagonist is about to be dead and his love is already dead, before we get to know and care for them?

    Romeo and Juliet would have been less interesting told this way, IMO.
     
  11. Bad_Valentine
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    Bad_Valentine Member

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    Good point Dave. On the other hand, depending on how the story is written in the beginning, the reader may be drawn in wondering why he is so despondent he's driven to kill himself.

    By the way, I don't think this story is strange at all. :) As Dave mentioned its your classic romeo and juliet/true love story. I think a lot of people can relate to loving someone so much that you would rather die than go on living without them.
     
  12. T.N. Tobias
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    T.N. Tobias Member

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    Knowing the ending at the beginning isn't always a bad thing. The movie American Beauty springs to mind. That said, you'd better have a barn burner of a middle if you give away the death of the main character right up front.
     
  13. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    What I've done so that the reader still reads after finding out the end straight away, is I've written it completely from his perspective, so I haven't just said, 'his girlfriends dead. He's about to kill himself'. I've written it so he keeps talking about a love that was shot and the flashbacks are my tool for explaining what happened. Also, I've put the flashbacks in no order, just jumbled so that the reader has to try and put them in the correct order to fully understand what has happened. Is this a good idea?
     
  14. T.N. Tobias
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    T.N. Tobias Member

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    Yeah, I don't think so on the jumbled flashback deal. The reader doesn't want to spend that kind of effort just to read a short story. Unless this material is Pulp Fiction strong, I'd suggest some guideposts as to where you are in the narrative.
     
  15. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends how short the short story is.

    Not so long back I read a novelette/novella that was about 12,000-15,000 words or so. It contained jumbled flashbacks, and it worked brilliantly. We knew the end halfway though, but that didn't stop it being poignant. The story was long enough to have plenty of complexity, but still short enough to be a quick(ish) read that could still be defined as simple. If you're interested, that short story was Story Of Your Life, by Ted Chiang.

    If it's shorter than 5,000 words the jumbled flashback probably isn't a good idea on grounds of it just being too short to employ techniques like that effectively. Who knows, though? If you're skilled enough, you could be able to pull it off. Give it a go, then decide whether it works or not.

    Best of luck.

    And don't be fazed by a story being depressing. Blimey, if every writer decided not to write depressing stories, we'd have been left without some of the greatest things ever written. Let's face it, Tess of the D'urbervilles was great, but left you wanting to kill yourself. Imagine if Hardy had just decided to pack it in on grounds of it being bleak.
     
  16. NRG
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    NRG Senior Member

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    Thanks for all the help everyone! I think I will change it into a novella. I've just realised while I'm writing it that I can't show the love they have for each other while showing the plot and the reason behind the war which ultimately effects their love. I can only show one without drawing it out, but if I make it a novella, it might work. Thanks, any more advice is appreciated, but so far everything has been extremely helpful.
     
  17. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    As for revealing the protagonist's death at the beginning, I'll refer back to Grave of the Fireflies. First line of the movie: "September 21, 1945... that was the night I died."

    Does that mean you know the ending and have no incentive to watch the film? Hell, no. Even once all the characters and the storyline have been established, there's still a ton of uncertainties about where things might go.

    That the character eventually dies isn't as big a reveal as one might first think -- after all, everyone dies eventually. No big surprise there.
     
  18. Lyssaur
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    Lyssaur Member

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    The depressing part of the story will come from within itself. Just write it how he's remembering it- don't throw in any descriptive feeling where it isn't necessary. I feel that picturing the scenes with the character is what evokes the most emotion, and too much description can make it corny.

    I love the idea though. If you me to review it after you're done just send me a pm. :)
     

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