Writing the Short-Short Story Fiction Writing Fundamentals English II HP
A few things you should know about the short-short story • What is fiction? • The word comes from a Latin root meaning “to shape or fashion.” • Whenever we recount some past event, we inevitably include certain details and leave others out. • Thus, we shape what we have to say to produce a desired effect. • Through this process, raw material becomes fictionalized. • Fictions are everywhere—any form of communication that relies heavily on imagination might be labeled fiction.
Creative Writing Comparison Genre Characteristics • Fiction • Poetry • Drama • Written in prose, moves in a straight line from the left to right margin • Right-hand margins are ragged, with each line ending where it does for added emphasis • Written in form of a script, to be seen and heard, not read silently
Creative Non-Fiction • Literary writing that claims to be true • Writers of such fiction are always accountable to the evidence • If a writer claims that a work is nonfiction, and it is discovered that incidents are exaggerated or hadn’t occurred, the credibility of the writer is undermined. • A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey • “Creative license” is not an issue if the work is labeled a novel.
Types of Creative Fiction • Historical Fiction—based on more fact-finding, but the story is paramount • The March, by E. L. Doctorow, about General Sherman’s advance through the South • Genre Fiction—romance, spy/thriller, horror, fantasy, science fiction • Requires writer to stick to certain conventions • Genre stories do not work well in short-shorts • Literary Fiction • Does not adhere too closely to standard set of expectations • Values character over plot • Emphasizes authorial voice and style • Values ambiguity, multiple interpretations • Literary writers borrow from conventions of genre fiction all the time, while best genre writers do their best to create works of literature
Elements of Fiction • Structure and Design • Every piece of the short-short story must interact effectively with the others • Character • The people in the story should be recognizable as human beings, showing both good and bad sides, and capable of changing, even if they don’t • Dialogue • The best dialogue not only reveals who the characters are but also moves the story along
Elements of Fiction, Continued • Setting • Where and when the story takes place; deft use of detail and description both illuminates character and propels a scene forward • Point of View, Tone, and Style • Point of view allows us into, or keeps us out of, the characters’ minds; it dictates how much we learn of their internal, unspoken thinking • Tone is a literary speaker’s “attitude toward his listener” • Style is how writers say what they have to say • Who is telling the story and how it’s told are closely intertwined
What is a Short-Short Story? • At least 100 but no more than 2,000 words • Less than one double-spaced page to seven or eight pages • Readers of short-shorts expect every moment of a story will engage their interest: There can be no dead spots • It is a complete work, with a beginning, a middle, and an end • Snap, quick turning, surprise: Readers must be left in a different place than where they began
Structure and Design Checklist • Have you begun your story at the most opportune moment? • Is the story’s conflict immediately clear? • Does some significant change occur during the course of your story? • Does your story end at the best possible place?
Creating Characters Checklist • Do you know your main characters and their desires well? • Does your story show us only the essential aspects of your characters? • Can you eliminate any characters? Or can you combine two or more characters into a single character? • Is your description of each character appropriate to, and necessary for, that character’s function in the story? • Are the characters’ names appropriate? • Do your characters need to be named at all? • Are your characters different at the end of the story than they were in the beginning?
Writing Dialogue Checklist • Do you have enough dialogue? • Do you have too much dialogue? • Does your dialogue sound like real speech? • Have you clearly, and unobtrusively, tagged all speakers of dialogue?
Setting the Scene Checklist • Is the description of the place and time appropriate to your particular story? • Is your description of real places accurate? • If you’re certain that your story has to be set in another time or place, have you done sufficient research to make the setting believable? • If your story is set in an imaginary time and place, are there enough concrete details to make it convincing? • Do you have too many scenes for a short-short story? • Is there any description in your story that does not develop character or move the story forward but instead seems to exist chiefly because you enjoyed writing it?
Deciding on point of view, developing tone and style • Have you given careful thought to the question: “Who should be telling this story and why at this particular moment?” • Have you fully considered which verb tense will most effectively tell your story? • Are the tone and style of your story appropriate to its content?