1. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Structure of a short story not a novel

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by writing4me, Mar 7, 2009.

    Okay I have another problem, which I really need help on. Almost everytime I sit down to write out a short story, I somehow manage to structure like it's a novel and everytime I try to change it to a short story, I end up deleting what I've just written. It's really frustrating and I really dunno what to do. Anybody have any suggestions on what I should do or what I shouldn't do?

    CJ
     
  2. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    first, what do you mean by 'structure'?... and 'structure it like a novel'?

    both are prose and both have the same structure re narrative and dialog, so what do you see as a difference, other than that a novel will have subplots and a short story will be more narrowly focused?

    if your storyline has an actual plot and isn't just a character study, it will also have a beginning, middle, and end, like a novel...

    until you answer the questions i've asked, i can't be more specific...
     
  3. Dalouise
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    Dalouise Contributing Member

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    I'm having a little difficulty is understanding the problem since I find short stories and novels quite different in structure. I regard a short story as a snapshot in time happening in minutes or hours, covering a main thought with a beginning, middle and snappy ending. Very few characters - one short story that sticks in my mind has only one - and probably a single event or situation. A novel on the other hand has a more complex structure with plots and subplots interwoven and obviously is a much longer piece.
    It might help to concentrate on one or the other then read lots, to pick up an idea of pace and complexity. Sorry, that doesn't sound very helpful but I would also say, don't throw anything out as it might come in useful in a later project whether that is a short story or a novel.
    Good luck! :)
     
  4. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Okay.... I keep writing down unnecessary things and as I do I come up with sub plots, and more characters and I can't stop myself from doing that. I just end up having enough material for a full length novel, and I don't want to do that.



    CJ
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Staying focused is the main challenge in a short story relative to writing a novel. It sounds like you know what to do - resist the urge to let subplots multiiply like tribbles, and limit the characters to what the short story demands.

    Although novels tolerate, and in fact need, the added complexity, the discipline to stay focused will improve your novel writing, too.
     
  6. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    With short stories, here's how I think of it:

    1. Who are the main characters?

    --I generally try to stick with the main characters. Secondary characters only get peripheral development.

    2. What do they want?

    --Specifically, what is the goal for these characters? Except in some experimental pieces, most characters will have a solid goal they need to pursue. Stick with this goal. Subplots are fine if it's a longer short story, but don't sub-plot by introducing more characters, more conflicts, etc. than necessary, and keep these subs down to a manageable size.

    3. If all else fails, maybe you're not meant to write short stories?

    --I have your problem. For me, it's nearly impossible to stick with just a short story. I am meant to write novels and there's nothing else to it. I would really love to write short stories, because that market is easier to break into, but that's not who I am. Consider yourself. Maybe your imagination is just a little too expansive for the short story. It's not good or bad. It just IS.
     
  7. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Thanx for all the advice. Anybody have any other suggestions?

    CJ
     
  8. J.V. Amaral
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    It sounds like you are not being ruthless enough.

    The golden rule in short story writing, as I have learned it, is decide on what theme the story will be about - e.g. love, hope, good triumphs over evil, madness, etc. - and then stick to that theme with a ruthless attention to word detail in relation to theme.

    Said differently, every single word written must address the theme, and any word, sentence or paragraph that you think MAY not directly address the theme and move the story forward, must be cut. Anything you are not sure ABSOLUTELY NEEDS to be in the story, must be cut.

    There is so much more room in novels for wordplay, plots, subplots and character development, but there are only narrow themes in short stories, and very few scenarios and characters with which to advance your theme.

    The other piece of good advice that I learned, which really applies to all writing, but especially to writing short stories, is to read A LOT of short stories. Read as many as you can, look at their structure, identify their themes, and practice practice practice, while always having a ruthless attention to limiting your words, characters and subplots.

    Hope that helps.

    Best,

    JVA
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sounds to me like you need to read more of the best short story writers' works... absorbing what makes a good one, by reading enough of them should put your mind in more of a 'short story' mode...

    what genre do you want to write?... ask your local librarian for a list of the best writers in that genre and then get busy seeing how good stories look/feel/read, so you can hopefully curb that tendency to get carried away...
     
  10. writing4me
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    writing4me Member

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    Thanx JVA that does help me. Anyone else got any other advice...

    CJ
     

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