1. dgraham
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    dgraham Senior Member

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    Short "Story" Structure

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by dgraham, Oct 14, 2009.

    So, I've written a number of short "stories", but they don't generally follow any sort of standard plot arc. In fact, in most of them, there's not even really any sense of conflict (imo).

    I have been told that they're all very interesting and readable, but I have noticed and so have other readers that there's no real plot in the sense of intro - rising action - climax, etc... The reason I bring this up is that I had someone I don't know read over my stuff and that was his only criticism, that it mostly reads like a surreal diary entry. So, I'm wondering if any of my stuff will be publishable given that I don't have a plot so much.
     
  2. AmandaC
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    AmandaC Member

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    That's how short stories should be. They give you a peek into the world you are creating, just a snipped. They don't have plot arcs like a novel will.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The essential elements of a plot are an actor, a goal, a motivation, and an opposition. The actor is an entity, usually a character, capable of independent action. The goal is the objective the actor strives to achieve. The motivation is what compels the actor to try to achieve the goal. The opposition is a force or obstacle that acts to prevent the actor from achieving the goal.

    The motivation and opposition are opposing forces, and whichever is greater determines whether the goal is attained.

    Many times, the opposition itself is a plot as well. If the actor is different from that of the primary plot, you have a typical adversartial struggle, in which only one of the actors will achieve his or her goal. If the actors are the same, you have a classic internal conflict.

    It is possible to have a storyline without plots, but it is only a series of random events with no direction and no tension. Such stories don't generally interest readers. Plots are the linkage that connect events in a meaningful way.

    Identifying the plots that comprise a story is key to tightening it up. By adjusting the motivations and the oppositions, you can modulate the tension in the story. That is also how you can strengthen the rising action and sharpen the climax.

    The major difference between a novel and a short story is that the plot network of a short story must be kept simpler. Generally, you don't have the luxury to delve into deep characterizations; you have to stay tightly focused on a small number of characters and very few developed plots. But the overall dynamic of the struggle inherent to plot remains.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    They don't have to follow a traditional plot structure. Also, I'm going to guess that your stories actually do have some sort of plot. There's probably something happening within the story even though it might read like a journal entry. Unless your short story is about someone describing leaves and trees for the entire length of the story, I'm sure there is some sort of conflict going on. Just try to find it and make it clearer since it seems your readers are missing it.

    It really depends on the editor of the magazine. Some will like it, others won't. The only real way to find out, of course, is to submit after polishing it and see what happens. Sometimes editors will write to you saying why they rejected (or accepted) your story. If you see many responses saying that there isn't enough conflict, then you will have to revise your story.
     
  5. dgraham
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    dgraham Senior Member

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    Hey guys, thanks so much for your input, that's super helpful. It was really useful getting a variety of different opinions. Maybe I will try submitting something and see what editors say, although I shouldn't be too surprised if it's something like what Cogito said about "a series of random events with no direction and no tension".
     
  6. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    The main complaint I've read from editors of magazines is that although the writing might be good, there is no story. It goes no where. There is no beginning and conclusion. One doesn't feel like they've completed something after finishing it.

    You could take your story and think about the message you are trying to tell. Then give your MC a goal to reach and a reason to reach it. Tell your message with the MC trying to reach that goal. How they reac it and if they do or do not reach it is how you tell that message.
     

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