1. KOHIPEET
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    KOHIPEET New Member

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    Need help with short stories.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by KOHIPEET, Jul 11, 2016.

    Hello there!

    I'm picking up writing again after a few months break.

    (I became really frustrated because didn't have any ideas, or at least I was lost in a situation where I wanted to find a good idea so much that I've considered literally all my ideas bad. I wanted to write so much, the whole process became strained, so I decided to take a break.)

    But thankfully, the urge to write arose again and this time I decided to progress with smaller steps.
    I think actually finishing a story would be a great motivator and a huge boost to my confidence (the keyword here is "finishing" even if it sucks), but there is a problem. Even though I've read quite a lot of short stories recently, I still find it difficult to grasp the underlying structure of them.

    Is there a somewhat comprehensive write-up about short stories, like how to pace it, where should plot points come in, but most importantly, how long should they be?

    I've already searched the internet for such material and I've found a few that are really promising but I would still like know if there is a "must-read" writing on short stories.

    Is there?

    -Thank you very much in advance-
     
  2. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Check out the short story advice of Kurt Vonnegut. This is pretty much all you need to know.

     
  3. KOHIPEET
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    KOHIPEET New Member

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    Thank you very much. Will definitely look watch that.
     
  4. NeeNee
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    NeeNee Member

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    I totally commiserate with you here. I seem to always have at least a dozen different story ideas in my head but have a hard time seeing the story start to finish. What I've found useful is Nigel Watts' 8 point story arc.
    I plug in the information about my story that I have already thought about and then start brainstorming ideas for the areas that are missing.

    Or if I am totally lost I scrap the idea and think of another one.

    When searching for ideas I like to look at photographs of various things and places, etc, just various things that spark my interest - fancy tree houses, fantasy artwork, old abandoned buildings, etc. I look at pictures and do a little daydreaming. Not usually trying to force a story to develop, just looking at a variety of things and imagining things like the people who might live in that world or used to live there, or whatever.

    My favorite stories to read are what I call a "What If" story. "What if a space ship landed and the aliens were friendly and just looking for a place to colonize?" "What if science were able to develop a pill that made us - fill in the blank - appear the way we wanted to appear? Be able to live to the age of 200? Be able to speak and understand all languages? Be able to breathe underwater?

    What if babies were born talking? What if scientists did mate a human with a primate? (in the lab of course).

    So that's a little about how I find inspiration and start thinking about a story.

    Here's a link Nigel Watts story arc.
    http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/
     
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  5. KOHIPEET
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    KOHIPEET New Member

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    Thank you very much. Sometimes I do daydreaming like this, but definitely not as consciously as you. I'll probably try it out tomorrow.
    This 8 point story arc seems very interesting, it's probably the thing I've been searching for, so it's much appreciated.
     
  6. Carly Berg
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    Carly Berg Contributing Member

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    Kohipeet, per your statement about progressing in smaller steps, you could also try writing some flash fiction. At under 1,000 words and having a simplified structure (just one main idea), it's hard to get lost. As a bonus, they really help you learn to write tighter, since there's no room for words that don't carry their own weight and they tend to stand out. Good luck.
     
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  7. KOHIPEET
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    KOHIPEET New Member

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    Thank you for the advice.

    I have to say, flash fictions are completely new to me, but they definitely seem to be an interesting way to improve my skills. Also, I hope they'll allow me to test some of my ideas before trying to develop them into more complex stories.
     
  8. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    I agree with @Carly Berg, flash-fiction is a great place to get started. First, you only need one idea, no subplots or secondary character arcs, and second, if you set yourself a hard word limit (hard as in inflexible, not necessarily difficult), it will rein in any bad tendencies you have to ramble, wander, meander, over-describe, or otherwise clutter or muck up your work with useless, unnecessary, or redundant.....

    Sorry, hit my limit. But anyway, it is a good tool for tightening things up. I wrote flash for a couple years, to a 666 word limit (horror), so my 4500-ish word short story feels like War and Peace to me.

    ETA: It's also very easy to get people to read and critique complete pieces that are under a thousand words.
     
  9. Warriorpoet
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    Warriorpoet New Member

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    I couldn't agree more with Carly Berg. Flash fiction is really helping me. I am just getting started with fiction writing (I write a lot of content for the internet.) I was lucky and found a site (writing.com) that actually has two daily flash fiction contests. It also helps to keep me writing day after day.

    hope this helps
    wp
     
  10. Scott Sommers
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    Scott Sommers New Member

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    I found the Lester Dent method very useful for short story writing. He created the character Doc Savage. I couldn't post a link because the forum keeps thinking its a spam link. So, google: Lester Dent formula karen woodard. On karen's site she explains in detail the lester dent formula. Let me know what you think about the formula. Good luck.
     
  11. Opal Rose
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    Opal Rose New Member

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    I agree with those who have recommended starting with flash fiction. I had a few flash fiction pieces published years ago and I based them around a twist.
     
  12. caters
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    caters Member

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    I have exactly the opposite with writing short stories. I am very good at forming ideas but those ideas expand super fast into novels.
     
  13. Goldenclover179
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    Goldenclover179 Member

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    Flash fiction is really good if you're struggling to write in great detail or you want to work on creating a picture, so you can use it to write a short, condensed story which focuses on the tiny details. Almost a vignette.
     
  14. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    Cannot force it, it will come out when it is ready. Relax and let the words burst onto the page from the keyboard. My first novel was intended to be a short, and now it has a sequel in the works (damn this inability to figure out the next parts correctly, keeps me from working on it :p).

    I agree with @Goldenclover179, try a little bit of dabbling into Flash Fiction. There is one or two threads in the Writing Prompts that you may find useful. One has a 5 minute time limit to add on pressure, and the other is only limited by how long or short you want to make it. Both are free writes with no prompt other than whatever you can think of on the spot.
     
  15. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Why are you guys so into flash fiction? I don't think it's any easier to write. And I don't see how doing a bunch of flash fiction pieces is going to prepare you for writing a 5,000-word story. There doesn't seem to be all that much story in a lot of what people are calling flash fiction these days. Don't get me wrong some of it can be great like Girl by Jamaica Kincaid. But if you really want to practice storytelling and writing short stories, I wouldn't go into it with self-imposed limitations like you must write a story under 1,000 words. Just try writing one and see how it goes.
     
  16. Goldenclover179
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    Goldenclover179 Member

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    With flash fiction, you can focus on a very short scene in immense detail, which gives you better practice at making the dialogue and the descriptions when you write non short stories a lot more intense, a lot more floral, because you've practiced it before. It could teach you how to compact a lot of events into a shorter amount of words, rather than rambling unnecessarily, because in short stories you don't have 100,000+ words to tell a story.
     
  17. A.S.Ford
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    A.S.Ford Active Member

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    There are a few short story writing help books that have proved useful, for me at least, most of which you can find on amazon by searching for short story writing books (the TeachYourself series is quite helpful). In my Creative Writing degree we were advised, when writing short stories, to create a story that focuses on one or two characters and is about a topic or event that covers a significant or interesting moment, whatever that might be (for example, one of my short stories was about a man who lost his job during the industrial revolution (in the UK) and had to choose between joining the body snatchers trade to make his money or to admit to his wife and family that he was now unemployed (which was considered really shameful at the time) and another one of my short stories was about my Great Nan and a day in her life as a nurse in WW2). In my degree, most of our short stories were limited to 2,000 words but I think the actual minimum and maximum word counts for short stories are 1,000 - 7,000 words.

    Here are the main points my lecturers made about short stories in my degree:

    Don’t write introductions and conclusions

    Only write what is necessary

    End the short story soon after the conflict/climax

    Always make your characters want something

    Keep the short story focused on one main conflict

    Whatever the story is about, it must matter to the characters

    ‘Action’ such as murder, mugging, gun fights, or car chases rarely work in short fiction

    I hope this helps :)
     
  18. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    I would not use the word "floral" to describe any short stories I read. I suggest you read more of them. And I just don't see flash fiction as a necessary step in writing short stories of a longer length.
     
  19. Goldenclover179
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    Goldenclover179 Member

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    @deadrats, not that it's a necessary step, it just could be helpful in working on details. And it depends on the short story, if you're describing one moment or scene, then yes, the description should be somewhat floral or it's not a terribly well-written short story.
     
  20. deadrats
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    deadrats Active Member

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    Floral language does not mean something is well written. In fact, quite the opposite is often true.
     
  21. Goldenclover179
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    Goldenclover179 Member

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    Not floral, per se. That was a bad choice of words on my part, I meant more descriptive, vibrant. Painting a picture, so to speak.
     
  22. MichaelP
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    MichaelP Active Member

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    Just analyze the types of stories you want to write.
     

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