December 13, 2011

"It seems to me that when you write a short story, you have to cut off both the beginning and the end."

"We writers do most of our lying in those spaces. You must write shorter, to make it as short as possible."


Writ Small said...

I try.

traditionalguy said...

Start in the middle and point towards the ending.

It takes great talent to hook an audience that way.

ndspinelli said...

traditionalguy, Sounds like Pulp Fiction.

Stephen A. Meigs said...

Trimming my writing is very bad for me. I write too densely, in a math-book style with too little easy natural transitions between the pieces, and too little redundancy. Having to write or cut comments down to the 4096 limit only accentuates my worst writing tendencies, introducing further abrupt habits that make it more exhausting for me to write things. I wrote a 4900 character logically complicated comment the other day, comparing the psychology of David Brooks to Obama, but just put my hands up and said forget it when I realized I was 800 characters over.

Much of the praise for brevity and simplicity of style is really just disguised praise for brevity and simplicity of thought, imho.

Something else I've noticed is that when I first think about an idea, it comes pretty easy for me to write it down, partially-baked though the idea be. It's as though there is an easy poetical quality in writing an idea in a way that reflects the thinking one had when discovering it. The second time I think about it is the hardest, and maybe it's not until the third or fourth time I've thought something through carefully that I can think it through and write it down with the ease I originally had when thinking upon it.

Scott M said...

"The 10% Solution" is an excellent guide for this and most likely available through Ann's link to Amazon. I got mine when Borders went tits up.

My main battle is with exposition. It's far more effective, and shorter, to work it into the dialogue than it is to assault your reader with paragraph after paragraph of backstory.

I had started a short story back in October, stopped it for the novel in November thingy, then just recently picked it back up. It's amazing what you will notice about how many extra words you're using when you step away from a piece of work and let it "simmer" for a week or so.

Valentine Smith said...

"Start in the middle and point towards the ending."

In medias res, the foundation of the primary epics.

bagoh20 said...

Was this after Tolstoy's "goodbye kiss"?

d-day said...

Althouse - I thought you didn't read fiction?

Ann Althouse said...

I read a little fiction. Maybe 2% of what I read is fiction these days. I also remember the fiction I read years ago.

I was reading some Mark Twain today. And I read an F. Scott Fitzgerald story yesterday.

It's not beyond me. I even compose fiction plots in my off minutes, but I don't have the patience to flesh them out.

Peter said...

If you get paid by the word, you won't want to cut off anything.

d-day said...

I can't argue with quality over quantity.

In one of my first college lit courses, the professor had us read an essay by Edgar Allen Poe, The Philosophy of Composition" that discusses a short length as an important consideration in preserving the "unity of effect" required to make a story great. The professor stumped the class the next day asking us to find the "obvious" criticism of Poe's theory, which was, he yelled, that "Poe wrote a bunch of crappy short stories."

When I was a school kid, my overriding concern in novel selection was length: epics or long series preferred. But then, I had many hours to fill between 2:30 and bedtime. As I age, I enjoy more short fiction, well done. I guess you use opportunity differently when it's limited.

Chekhov is funny, beautiful, and short - always worthwhile.

Crunchy Frog said...

Have written a couple short stories. To me, it's like songwriting - Figure out what you are trying to say, and say it, without a whole lot of extraeneous detail that detracts from the main point.

Kinda freeing, in a way.

wv: tomsorie - Modern day warrior

Scott M said...

Figure out what you are trying to say, and say it, without a whole lot of extraeneous detail that detracts from the main point.

Are short-stories the twitter of the literary world, or is twitter?