Monday, 4 June 2012

Kick Start Your Short Story

Guest post by award-winning Australian novelist and short story writer Wendy Laharnar

What is a short story compared to a Novella or Novel?

A short story has between 1,000 and 10,000 words. The amount depends on the publisher’s requirements. It concerns one episode, only, revealed in a series of events with a climax and, preferably, no more than three main characters. It covers a short time span and has a single purpose.

The novella and novel, on the other hand, have multiple characters and episodes and cover whatever time it takes to tell the story in as many words as necessary. Therefore, I think the short story is closer to the poem where every word must count to create atmosphere, evoke a specific emotion and drive the message home with limited words, unless you are Virgil or Dante, of course, with their epic, novel length poetry.

The Short Story Framework

*The short story has three types of Framework.

The five-tier plot:
1. A recognizable type of Character is driven by
2. A specific Motive or Desire leading to
3. A Central Situation which gives rise to
4. Unexpected Complications {including the dark moment) - demanding in turn
5. A rational yet surprising solution or outcome.
This framework fits all genres of strongly plotted short stories and suits traditional magazine stories.

The three-tier plot:
1.Situation which brings out the winning streak in
2.A specific Character type who seeks about devising
3.A Solution

Revolves around the character and his problem rather than a series of surprises. This can be a character driven plot or one which takes an ordinary event and uses it to create an extraordinary story.

The two-tier plot:
1.A certain type
2. Explores a Situation.

The most difficult to write. It's a literary or plotless story of the type written by Chekhov. Through it, the talented author enriches the reader’s mind with a virtuoso display of narrative and dialogue. A less talented author might wallow in self pity and introspection.

So, with all this in mind, you can sit in front of a blank screen, like I did when writing Of Actors and Action, begin with stream of consciousness and keep typing until a brilliant idea takes over, and you are able to frame your story. In this case I chose the five-tier framework

Or develop an idea that fascinates you. With my sci-fi Happiness Guaranteed, I’d read about the discovery of an ancestral memory gene and combined this idea with my passion for Formula 1. The story tried to take over, but I contained it to one episode in Bianca’s ideal life, again using the five-tier frame.                       .

Or, begin with your episode clearly in mind, and choose the type of characters and their motivation best suited to deliver your purpose. I used this method in Billy the Bonsai Bull, using the three-tiered framework.

The Three Tier Framework

Let's take a closer look at the three-tier framework:

For Billy’s story of 6,500 words, I chose a troublesome episode from real life: raising an orphaned calf that had lost the will to survive. It spanned twelve months in Billy’s life.

My purpose: to prevent bullying - loneliness and false friends can stunt our emotional and physical growth, whereas true friends help us thrive, therefore children should not tolerate a bully nor be tempted to bully others.

Situation: A calf wants to lie down and die and the farmer’s wife is determined to save him. This brings out a winning streak in both

Character types: a stubborn orphaned calf and a compassionate but frustrated farmer’s wife. By presenting the story from Billy’s pov, children might glimpse some aspect of their own experience and empathize with Billy. Although it is the farmer’s wife who seeks to devise the solution, Billy had to respond to it.
Solution: Acceptance. Billy learns to accept genuine friends and stick with them even if they are not popular with others.

Now, if you need to kick start your short story, below you’ll find all you need for

  1. The specific Character type
·        Jung’s Six Heroes 

·        Archetypes  - a mind boggling number to choose from are here      
·        Trait's of Human Consciousness  article by Roy Posner.
      and  Character Traits created by C. Kochan    
*2. Motives

To Win: love, respect, an object, freedom shelter etc.
To Escape: oppression, danger, family, influence etc.
To Retrieve: self respect, respect from others, a skill, position, property etc
To Compete against: superior forces, a rival, a cheat, the law etc
To Conceal: a crime, object, witness, scheme, emotion etc
To Save: a life, reputation, possession.
To Uncover: a conspiracy, lie, crime, injustice, secret.
To Protect someone: weaker, unjustly accused etc

3. Situations

      According to George Polti, the 19th century French writer, there are only
                     36 dramatic situations 

*4. Complications
Change of routine
Unforseen obstacle
Entering wrong door
Making wrong choice
Taking wrong turning
Unexpected arrival,

5. Solutions i.e. Resolution of Conflict
Here are three ways to go. Win. Lose. Surrender.
Physical or Moral Strength – courage, willpower or visible means.
Moral Strength or ability – invisible means nobility, ingenuity, wisdom.
Resignation. –acceptance, conscience or the getting of wisdom

*tip: Regardless of the situation your character is in, it’s his character type and motive which determines the type of conflict at the heart of the story. ie. man against man, man against Nature, man against self. So when deciding which solution to use, concentrate on the character type and his motive only, and this should make it easier.

Hello muse, happy writing.

* From the diploma course – Professional Writing - I took with International Correspondence Schools, (Australia)  1982.

Wendy's Website

Wendy's Blog

Muse Author Page.

Thanks so much Wendy for such a useful and informative article and for being so generous with all your additional links.
Please post all your comments and questions for Wendy in the comments box below. And do buy one or more of her great books to see how it's done...
Annie :-)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

New Writing Opportunities

Writing Contests

Writing contests are a good way to hone your craft, to learn about writing to deadlines and to gain greater exposure and publicity for your work.

A new-to-me  information page from Be a Better Writer lists current creative writing competitions for both fiction and non-fiction. As the page holds details for the rest of the year, scroll down through the creative writing entries to reach the creative non-fiction contests half way down the page.

There is also a handy comments box where you can enter details of a competition you are running--or know about. After checking it out, webmaster and award-winning author Pearl Luke will add it to the listings.

A site well worth exploring and full of helpful advice.
It also hosts  the Page 47 short story submission page offering a flat fee payment for stories accepted for publication.

Read a selection of past stories already accepted and as always, read the guidelines carefully and obey them to the letter. Good luck.

How To Write A Short Story

Brush up your knowledge and technique by reading the fascinating and comprehensive article written specifically for Slow and Steady Writers by Australian novelist and short story writer Wendy Laharnar.

Happiness Guaranteed by Wendy Laharnar
Wendy's sci-fi novella Happiness Guaranteed, was third in the bestseller lists for its category on Amazon, Germany--no mean achievement. And her books and short stories for adults and children constantly garner five star reviews.

Come back on Monday June 4 and read her useful feature length article entitled Kick Start Your Short Story.

More Advice From Top Authors

Randy Ingermanson, creator of the Snowflake Method  and author of the free Advanced Fiction Writing e-zine is offering two novels Oxygen and The Fifth Man in  special ebook versions  containing appendices for writers on writing. 

Written by himself and John B. Olson they are on sale on Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99 each until tomorrow Sunday June 3.

l found the appendices so interesting, l bought a second copy of Oxygen to keep  on my non-Kindle e-reader.

Design Your Own eBook Cover

lf you're looking to save money, put June 22 into your calendar or diary. It's the date of the next free Writers on the Move Webinar.

Karen Cioffi is presenting Design Your Own eBook Cover in Ten Easy Steps. For those of us who find attending too difficult because of the time factor, the webinar is copied to send out later. Just remember to register with Karen to get the link for the event nearer the time.