Monday, 30 April 2012

Want to write a short fantasy story?

Well, me too.

Last week, the lovely Fictionista Stacy Bennett-Hoyt made me aware of a Fantasy Writing Contest which looks fantastic.  Great prizes, great flexibility.

Just one problem.

It involves writing a fantasy and it involves writing a short story.  Now, it's not long since I blogged about the challenge of writing short.  It's still a nut I haven't cracked.  I'm carefully mapping out my Little Red Riding Hood short but I know what is happening.   It's turning  into a novel.


Happily, Faith Boughan has written an article to tell me where I might be going wrong.  I highly recommend reading the article but in summary, I'm:

  • Not remembering that a short story audience is different from a mega novel audience.  They want pace and immediacy, not epic grandeur. 
  • Trying to cram in too much plot (GUILTY).
  • Trying to cram in too many characters (GUILTY)
  • Trying to cram in too much description (GUILTY)
  • Trying to cram in too much world building (GUILTY). 
Now, the first of these isn't too big a deal for me because I don't try to be epic but the other four, yes. Guilty as charged damn it. 

If I'm writing flash fiction I know can fit in one character, at most two.  I know I can only manage one twist.  And the tight word count strips away all but the bare essentials where description is concerned. I've seen writers build entire fantasy universes in just one hundred words.  

Those writers appreciate one important fact:

Readers possess imaginations.  They can fill in the gaps. 
They might even like doing it.


A challenge lies before me.  Can I learn those lessons and apply them diligently when I have more words to play with? 

Can I build a word - and tight, pacy story - with the luxury of 8,000 words to play with? 

I don't know.  But here are three things that will help me:
  • Reading more short stories.  Simple eh?  It's true.  I'm good at flash fiction because I've read and written a lot of flash fiction. I've a sense of what works and what doesn't.
  • Taking a sub plot.  I have novels.  Can I steal a minor character and a sub plot and turn it into a short?
  • Giving myself limits. I strongly believe that nothing stimulates creativity like limits.  The harder the prompt, the tighter the word count, the more inventive my stories are.  If the scope is wide, I will make it narrow.  
What helps you?  I need all the help I can get! 


Bullish said...

I love short stories - both reading and writing them.

I generally take a pair of characters, throw them into a conflict, show them trying and failing to overcome a couple times and then close with resolution - maybe they prevail, maybe they fail, but what happens along the way is the story.

In other words, I let character drive plot instead of constructing plot and then filling it in with characters.

I can't wait to see what you cook up for this contest!! *squeeeee*

Sophie Moss said...

As one who LOVES to write description, I make myself write everything else first. Dialogue, body tags, internal monologues. Once that's finished and the story is as tight as possible, I layer in the description. Of course that's my favorite part and it means I get to save the best for last. :) Good luck on your story. I can't wait to read it!

Jessica Marcarelli said...

I've never been able to take a subplot of my novels and make it a short story, but I know some writers do (that, or the short story becomes part of their novel).

I began writing much better short stories when I considered it like this: pretend that you're writing one scene of a novel. It's just a snapshot of that character's life.

Hope that helps. :)

A to Z Blogger & SF/Fantasy Writer @ Visions of Other Worlds

Meg McNulty said...

Incredibly useful advice - thank you ladies! *making notes*