SHORT STORIES

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When editing a story, I tend to check if my main characters are coming “through” well enough. I love using thoughts as a way of showing what my “people” are really made of (and it’s even more fun when they’re deliberately hiding this from the other characters in the story. You’re left wondering whether the others will find out the truth or not and this can be a great source of conflict if they do!).

If, by the end of the tale, I’ve got a clear picture of who my characters are, what drives them, and they engage me, then hopefully other readers will feel the same way and like them too. (Or in the case of villains love to hate them, which is also good).

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A great short story has to have:-

Strong, memorable characters

An intriguing start

A middle that wants to make you keep reading to see what
happens next (definitely no saggy middles)

A powerful and appropriate ending (and I do love twist endings as they end the story with a “punch”. Sometimes I’m pleased when I see the ending coming and basically, my guess turned out to be right, but I’m even more pleased when the writer wrongfoots me).

The right word count for the type of story it is. I like short stories to be 1500 words or so. Flash fiction is 1000 or under but I must admit I feel a bit short-changed if a short story comes in at 1200 words or so. It feels to me like the story hasn’t quite got the “legs” to go the proper distance.

(Many thanks to Dawn Kentish Knox for the picture of me reading from From Light to Dark and Back Again at the Bridge House event in December. Huge fun!).

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Some more Murphy’s Laws for writers:-

1. Your old PC will always play up when you’re trying to save the latest version of your MSS, especially something of novel length – and you have to save several times to make sure you HAVE saved it. (No longer the case for me I’m glad to say!).

2. You’re waiting eagerly for news of how you did in a writing competition. You check your inbox as often as possible at the relevant time. Nothing. You leave the PC for two minutes to go to to the loo, hear the unmistakable sound of more email coming in, get back to your desk as quickly as possible, only to find the new mail is selling you something you didn’t want, or offering you a date with a “hot” babe, which you also don’t want. The latter offers incidentally don’t seem to mind which gender they target.

3. You’re waiting for the author copy of your book to arrive. The days you stay in – guess what? Nothing turns up even though you know it is due. You pop round to see a neighbour or go to the local shops and come back to find… the “Sorry we missed you card” on your mat. Your vocabulary tends to veer into the brusque at this point!

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

About a week ago, I set up a quick poll as to what was the most important part of a story, regardless of word count. Many thanks to all who voted.

I asked whether an intriguing start or a twist ending was the most important component. And the results are:- (Ta da… imaginary drum roll here!)

83% An intriguing start
17% A twist ending

I’m not surprised by that. After all, if the start of a story doesn’t grip you, the chances of you getting to the twist ending are slim indeed!

Having said that, an intriguing start still has to be well supported by what follows. There has to be “follow through”. If the ending disappoints, would someone read another story from that author even though the start seems very promising? I think there could be a case of “once bitten, twice shy” here.

So my view? I am a little torn on this one as I sometimes write the ending to a piece of flash fiction first and then work backwards. One great thing about doing things that way is you definitely have the twist ending and you can then work out the intriguing start that led to it.

Overall though, I would go for the intriguing start (as I also love coming up with a strong opening line and seeing where it takes me).

Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Am glad that flash fiction has really taken off as a format and that Chapeltown Books now has a good range of publications to its name.

I love the “frame” around the powerful central images (see link) and think this is a great form of branding. The stories are pretty good too… Now I know I’m bound to say that but I wasn’t just referring to From Light and Dark and Back Again, honestly. Go on, check them out. Available in paperback and Kindle.

The small independent presses are a lifeline for authors and Chapeltown has particularly encouraged quirky fiction. Fine by me! I am a quirky writer…

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When is a tale a piece of flash fiction as opposed to a shortened story? When it has a “proper” beginning, middle and end and doesn’t feel as if more could be added to it.

I try to leave my stories on either a twist or punch ending (they’re not quite the same thing) so there really is nothing left to be said. I like people to be able to feel that the ending was an appropriate one (which, of course, is not the same thing as a happy one necessarily!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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