1. ZombieHappyMeal
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    ZombieHappyMeal Member

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    Some questions about short stories and novels.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ZombieHappyMeal, Sep 29, 2011.

    Thanks for taking the time to read my questions and I look forward to your responses.

    1. When you write, what are some ways you come up with ideas for short stories?
    2. Do you brainstorm and try to come up with ideas from scratch or do you wait for inspiration?
    3. When starting a new story, do you have an idea of what you are going to write before you sit down or do you just start writing whatever is in your head?
    4. Other than length, what is the difference between a short story and a novel?
    5. I feel that some ideas are too big for a short story. How do you identify those ideas before its too late and you've written 25 pages of a novel that you have no intention of writing in the first place?
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    1. and 2. I wait for inspiration. I've tried to just sit down and write something, but it doesn't work too well for me.

    3. If I have an idea in mind, I just start writing and see where it takes me. I usually don't know how a story is going to end. Sometimes, though, I'll have the ending in mind but don't know how the story begins. I've found that either way works for me.

    4. A short story has fewer characters and is more focused. You want to focus on one thing rather than several different things (i.e. there is no room for subplots and the like in short stories).

    5. Sometimes you can't. Sometimes it's just a matter of writing something and realizing that you're on the wrong track. It's really a matter of experience and intuition.
     
  3. urban_rae
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    urban_rae Senior Member

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    Hi Zombie,

    These are really good questions that I often wonder about as well. As I am a novice writer I am still developing my craft, but I am also a scholar so my mission is to learn and grow. I am working on both short stories and novels, I will share some of my thoughts and experiences on each point, I hope it helps.

    1. For short stories I use everyday objects and events to inspire me. I mostly write horror and science fiction. If something gives me the creeps or insights any sort of strong emotion, I let my mind wander to the worst case scenario to develop my horror scene. For science fiction I read a lot of current events and tech updates and dream about how it could affect the future. Since they are short stories, I do come up with just scenes, I don't create too much back story. You do need a little back story to have a well rounded idea, but a short story will need only a short build to a climactic scene.

    2. Sometimes I do brainstorm. I come up with words or phrases and then use this list for writing prompt choices. I pick one and then do a pen and papper free flow write for a designated amount of time. The time limit gives me a dead line and makes me wrap up the story. I make sure that when I do these writing prompts that it is a rounded idea with a beginning, middle and end. Some of the writing prompts I never touch again, but many of them do turn into short stories.

    3. When I start a new story I do have an idea in my head. I either use one of my writing prompts or I have a story I have been thinking about. It takes me a long time to edit and finish my story, so when I do make the decision to turn an idea into a story I put a lot of thought into it. Much of the real creativity comes out in the actual writing, but I will always have an idea with a beginning, middle and end, no matter how vague. Any of these may change as you write the story and it develops, but it is extremely helpful to have a general guide.

    4. What I have learned in the process of trying to write both short story and novel is that the novel is much more involved. The story plot is more complex, it involves more character development and/or it occurs over a longer period of time. This is not necessarily true for all short stories and novels, but something about the novel has got to be more complex to keep people reading for 400 pages.

    5. I don't think short stories have to be too limited in length. If the idea inspires you and you want to finish it, then my motto is that a story should be as long as it needs to be. In any case, it's good practice for working on longer pieces.

    I'm curious to learn about others processes...

    -rae
     
  4. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I usually start with a "what-if" question and expand it out from there. What if pigs could fly? What would be important about a flying pig? Who would care about a flying pig? What would happen to a flying pig? How would the world change because of a flying pig? etc.

    I brainstorm usually, though sometimes inspiration kicks in on its own.

    I plot points throughout that the story needs to meet, especially the ending. I plot how I want my characters to change by the end, what I want to happen to them, etc., but I usually turn them loose through the middle and sometimes they take me away from what I've planned.

    To me, it's the depth of a story and its characters. There are some powerful short stories out there, as well as novels lacking that depth, but that's the largest difference I see between the two. Novels usually get into the characters, details, and environment a lot more than short stories, but they also have the room to do so.
    I'm not sure. I've always believed that one could take almost any novel and produce a short story from/of it. You'd undoubtedly have to cut quite a lot, including plot points and possibly entire characters, but you could produce a short story with the core theme and story. So I'm not sure if it's identifying those ideas or learning to focus and shorten them and bring the important bits too the top.
     
  5. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Answering your first and second questions, most often inspiration comes to me out of the blue. I've had story ideas from all manner of things (non-fiction articles, a particular phrase someone says, etc), and in all manner of places. This is why I try to keep a notebook with me at all times, which is particularly useful late at night, when I'm half asleep. That said, I do sometimes find themed anthologies which I want to write something for, in which case the theme itself is often an inspiration.

    It varies. I usually have an idea at least for the beginning, though I don't always have a definite ending in mind.

    In general, I'd say that a short story generally revolves around an idea, whereas a novel is more of a narative, of ideas knitted together. It's not absolute, and there are exceptions, but I find it's a fairly workable differentiation.

    I'd suggest planning is probably the answer. That, or when you realise stash it away for use later.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    1. When you write, what are some ways you come up with ideas for short stories?

    ...my own imagination; news stories; things i see/hear/hear about; other creative works...

    2. Do you brainstorm and try to come up with ideas from scratch or do you wait for inspiration?

    ...i always have ideas, so i don't have to do either...

    3. When starting a new story, do you have an idea of what you are going to write before you sit down or do you just start writing whatever is in your head?

    ...both...

    4. Other than length, what is the difference between a short story and a novel?

    ...novels will have subplots and a host of characters, while short stories generally don't... it's like being up close and seeing just one corner of a large, busy mural compared to standing back and taking in the whole thing...

    5. I feel that some ideas are too big for a short story. How do you identify those ideas before its too late and you've written 25 pages of a novel that you have no intention of writing in the first place?

    ...i can tell before i start writing whether i'm going to write a short story or a novel... it's a matter of choice...
     
  7. Smythe
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    Smythe Member

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    1. I either wait for inspriation, or 'Fankenstein' an idea from interesting fragments.

    2. As above

    3. Depending on how complex I think the idea, I write between 3 sentences and 3 pages brainstorming. Most of the time. A short script I wrote, I allowed to fully form in my mind before I wrote a single word.

    4. I think plot development is one issue. Novels are generally longer and so incorporate more complicated plotlines. Again due to length, I find short stories have less 'waffle'.

    5. I know beforehand whether it's going to be a short story or a novella
     
  8. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    I have looked for pictures that interest me, and wrote out the scene or the SS(Dragons always welcome.). I have also just used other books I am writing for inspiration for a short story. (Aqua at play) (Bing Search actually will locate both):p
    2.I wait for inspiration, it usually finds me without me brainstorming, I brainstorm how to write the inspiration.

    3.My first stories I had the basic premise, and just dove in. My more recent works, I research and brainstorm angles to the story, get the high points nailed in my mind, then I start on the story.

    4.I go more indepth with describing the setting, go more indepth with character traits. SS the problem is either ended quickly or the beginning is quicker.
    5. I know I can pull at least a Novella out of an inspiration, unless its a short story inspiration. It doesn't mean it will be good. But when writing there is very little that is a waste of time. You season the work like a cook seasons the food, you learn from it, and will do even better next time.

    I keep the main objective in focus.

    If you write to get published, you will fail alot more often then you will succeed. But if you write for your enjoyment, you will rarely fail.
    Do your best while entertaining yourself, and someone else might like to read it too, then if you get published, you profit from your enjoyment.
     

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