1. akexodia
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    akexodia Member

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    Short story v/s Novel: The Approach ?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by akexodia, Mar 9, 2012.

    I wrapped up one novel length story few months ago (as in, 100% complete). And a few days back another plot idea struck my mind. As i sat down thinking about the plot at depth, i realised that it would be possible to write it as a short story only. So, i begin to jot down the rough draft of the 'short story'.
    This is where the chaos starts. I've never written a short story before.

    How does one approach writing a short story? (I mean, how does the approach differ from writing a novel. And no, I don't intend to point at the word limit :p) The approach regarding the thinking process. To what depth do I need to describe te scenes/characters? I feel that I'm tending to describe things a lot more in detail than it actually should.

    I browsed thorugh a few short stories on here. But it didnt seem to give me much insight.
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    by constant reading of the best short stories of all time!

    To
    you'll learn that by doing the above...

    that's because you're browsing in the wrong place... would you try to learn how to build a car engine by watching non-pro 'week-end mechanics' fiddle with their own cars?... for useful insight, do the above...
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Personally, I don't approach them that much differently to the way I approach my novels. Dolly Parton is my heroine of flash fiction ;) She is fantastic at plots and characters in a short space of time and I tend to study her songs a lot.

    Like all stories it needs a beginning, a middle and an end - so I approach it much the same way I do my novels, but with fewer characters and no subplots (unless one creeps in naturally ;) ) The descriptions are more sparse etc
     
  4. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    Well, unless you're fixed on publishing it in a market that requires a certain length, ignore the length. Otherwise, you will be unnecessarily constrained. There are terrific stories of all types; write the story and then classify it.
    That said. A short story is a little tricky because you have to fit your plot, character development, etc into a shorter space. This generally requires you to be a better writer so that you can convey a lot of information in a small amount of time. Good luck!
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Mammamaia is right. Read short stories by the masters, like Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, Alice Munro, John Cheever, etc. Even go back to Edgar Allan Poe. Learn from them how short stories actually work.

    Here's a hint: Very little actually happens in a short story. You usually don't find a string of scenes, one leading to the next. Usually, there's one scene or maybe two. Maybe even just one conversation. You'd be surprised, looking at a great short story, how little really happens.
     
  6. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    People usually complained about my lack of descriptions in my short stories, which was an eye opener to me. In short stories you just have to concentrate in a very fewer scenes than in a novel, but you can't shortcut the elements of good writing in those scenes. Short stories are tougher in my opinion because your choice of scenes has to be exactly right.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i have to say, as one who's been reading for almost 70 years and who has written both novel and short story length works for decades, that i can't understand all the talk on writing sites about 'scenes' in re writing prose fiction...

    seems too much like trying to apply a formula to the simple telling of stories... when you tell a story around the campfire, or at a child's bedside, do you think of it, or tell it in a series of scenes?... or do you just let the story come out as it will, in as dramatic a fashion as possible?

    do you notice the existence, arrangement, or number of scenes when you're reading good fiction?

    the only times i have ever even thought in terms of 'scenes' or considered that to be valid/useful/necessary is when writing plays or film scripts, where they're an integral part of the work's structure...

    so, can anyone tell me when and why did thinking in terms of and/or counting scenes become recommended for writing novels and short stories?
     
  8. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Reading and writing are not always the same skillset. Writers create and readers recreate. When telling stories orally yes I do think in scenes.

    My use of scenes came out of my educational background. As an archaeologist an important element of gaining understanding and empathy is recreation. When I put together the case in a museum it is a snapshot of the past designed to fire the lookers imagination. My thoughts are what is my character going to do - and how, now I have a scene and know how it looks visually, then I transcribe it onto the page. With a script I'm just the writer, but a novel turns me into set designer, wardrobe person, actor and director as well.

    As a writer I am competing against TV, computer games, glossy magazine, billboards, real life, constant news etc. My writing is deliberatly fast paced, intimate and visual because of that -- thinking in terms of scenes helps create that.

    Writing has always moved with the times - in the 1890s a description of the Eiffel Tower was possibly required in stories, in 2012 I can just say I stood by the Eiffel Tower and it gives most people an image. Shorter descriptions are possible because the majority of readers have had access to constant visual media since childhood. In the UK when I was my son's age I had access to three channels on the TV that closed down around 11pm and children's TV took up about three hours of that. I was a year away from getting my 48K Spectrum computer.

    Personally, whilst there are downsides I like living in the current media age and I am happy to roll with it.
     

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