Building a Short Story Part 2 – Results

You can see more of these exercises here.

 

For some very good reasons, these posts will be a bit shorter and not necessarily on time. I’m still teaching writing to advanced ESL students in September – these posts are helping me build a new approach, so I will work to get them finished!


From my last post:

My Story So Far

Main Problem:

An amateur stage magician learns real magic from his lover and mentor, but is unprepared for the mental cost of using his newfound power.

Conflict 1:

MC learns that his flight to New York to see his ailing mom for Thanksgiving has been delayed, but his new powers offer him a way to get to her.

Conflict 2:

MC’s lover and mentor persuades him to try, despite his reservations. Clearly she has another motive for wanting him to advance so far with his magic so quickly, but MC can’t see it through his love for her and his desire to do something great with his power.

Writing the Middle

The middle of your story starts after the main problem facing the MC has been set up, and covers everything up until the additional conflicts have been laid out. As you write, check that the conflicts build off the original main problem to make it worse. The reader should feel that the MC is under more pressure, or that their life, the life of someone they care about, or any desire they value greatly is threatened by the escalating conflicts.

Continue reading

Building a Short Story Part 2 – Raising the Stakes

You can see more of these exercises here.

In the last post, *I shared the beginnings of a short story. I attempted to set up the ‘reality’ of the magic in the story – our main character (Robert) can teleport himself, but it uses up his memory. The reader can also see how his mentor and lover (Carla) has a lot of influence over him – she’s clearly been goading him along through his magic training despite his reservations.

Now I can set up more conflicts and make things worse for my main character.

Robert wants to go back to his mother’s place for Thanksgiving. He’s planning to buy a plane ticket and just fly there, but Carla appeals to his vanity.  He wants to do much more with his magic than simple tricks – and Carla picks up on that and tells him to use magic to get to his mom’s place.

Robert is hesitant. He’s only been practicing short range teleport tricks, and he’s having trouble controlling the cost of the magic to his memory. Carla keeps pressing him, saying that the distance doesn’t matter – the magic works the same way regardless of the distance. She tempts him with a promise of more magic spells if he can prove his mastery of teleportation.

These are my complications – for this short story, I have two main complications that make the initial problem worse. For a longer story, you’ll need more complications – each one somehow relates to the initial challenge facing the main character (MC) and makes it more difficult then they realized.

My Story So Far

Main Problem:

An amateur stage magician learns real magic from his lover and mentor, but is unprepared for the mental cost of using his newfound power.

Conflict 1:

MC learns that his flight to New York to see his ailing mom for Thanksgiving has been delayed, but his new powers offer him a way to get to her.

Conflict 2:

MC’s lover and mentor persuades him to try, despite his reservations. Clearly she has another motive for wanting him to advance so far with his magic so quickly, but MC can’t see it through his love for her and his desire to do something great with his power.

Now come up with extra conflicts for your story.

If you are writing flash or slightly longer fiction, you’ll probably only need two conflicts that relate to the main problem and make it worse. Get the problems from your story’s environment, your character traits, or sudden accidents or incidents that could develop from the situation you’ve imagined. Your MC should be in a really difficult situation – and the reader should wonder just what they will do next.

I’ll share my results on Thursday.  See you then!


*Yay, I finally got links to show up blue, like they should be!

Building a Short Story Part 1 – Results

You can see other writing exercises here.

As I said on Tuesday, I’m working with one of my old stories and improving it. Here are the details I had to set up my new take on the story:

Two word & single-sentence description:

Ambitious magician: Robert is an ambitious stage magician who learns a real magic spell, along with the terrible cost of using it.

Character desires:

Robert wants to be a rich and famous magician. He is also passionately in love with Carla, the seasoned performer who taught him real magic.

Story Conflicts:

Robert’s mom is alone for Thanksgiving, but his next show is right after – he needs to be with her.

Carla wants him to use his new magic to get to his mom and get back quickly, but Robert realizes he will have to sacrifice a special memory to power the teleportation spell.

Carla convinces Robert that he can control which memory he loses and he can give up an unpleasant memory. He doesn’t realize that she is conning him and has other plans.

The Beginning

This won’t be perfect, but it should be a good start. You can check your own beginning for grammar and consistency if you are sharing it publicly, but remember that you will revise it later. The beginning should be the first quarter or less – just enough to set up the premise and one conflict from your story. When I teach my short fiction class in September, I’ll have students share up to 250 words of a story that will be 1000 words or slightly longer.

Alright then, here’s the start of my own writing example, Memory Exchange:

Continue reading

Building a Short Story, Part 1 (Repost)

You can see other writing exercises here.

Note: This is a repost from June, but this time I absolutely need to finish this posting series!

Putting it all together.

This week, we’ll start putting together a short story. I will go over an example story of mine as we go – you can check mine to see how well I follow my own advice! As with anything I share, I love feedback and will keep working to make it better.

We’re going back to the first month of exercises.

I’ll draw on some exercises from this blog back in March. We need:

  • A one-sentence description of a character (March 9)
  • One or two very important desires your character has (March 16)
  • Conflicts that stand in the way of those goals (March 23)
  • A main problem in the story that makes things worse (March 30)

I’m going to work with one of my old stories here and try to improve it. The story is called “Memory Exchange” and it was in an early self-published book. Here are the details I get when I put the story through the March exercises:

Two word & single-sentence description:

Ambitious magician: Robert is an ambitious stage magician who learns a real magic spell, along with the terrible cost of using it.

Character desires:

Robert wants to be a rich and famous magician. He is also passionately in love with Carla, the seasoned performer who taught him real magic.

Story Conflicts:

Robert’s mom is alone for Thanksgiving, but his next show is right after – he needs to be with her.

Carla wants him to use his new magic to get to his mom and get back quickly, but Robert realizes he will have to sacrifice a special memory to power the teleportation spell.

Carla convinces Robert that he can control which memory he loses and he can give up an unpleasant memory. He doesn’t realize that she is conning him and has other plans.


Now I want you to try.

Tell me about your main character, his or her desires, and some potential conflicts for your story idea. I’ll share the beginning of my work on Thursday, and we’ll see how well it sets up the story. See you then!

#IWSG for August – Dark Times

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Getting back into writing seems a lot harder for me now.

Last time I was putting up one of these IWSG posts, I had a crowdfunding effort relating to my writing. I ended that campaign and contest with all of 16 backers total. I simply didn’t have enough of the right kind of contacts and friends to see it through, or the knowhow to reach out to people who might have helped. I couldn’t go on with the promotion – it was taking away all my time to write.

I am thankful for those 16, and the many more who read the work I was displaying for the contest. I wish I could have done better for them. If I ever decide to crowdfund for writing again, it will be an even harder uphill battle, since everyone I know saw me fall flat on my face. But I will get the story done, along with the others I am working on.

Home life is not going well, and I don’t have a way out other than to keep working my main job I have to make a living. My wife and I are making progress on our debt, but at the cost of making any progress on our stalled relationship.

Yet here I am, still at the writing game. I’m still teaching a writing course in September – a course for ESL learners that I have adapted from my own influences and writing guidebooks. I must still have a set of materials to teach from, and that is exactly what I was preparing with my series of blog posts on writing short fiction.  I will return to the series of posts next Tuesday.

I must keep writing, even with feelings of darkness.

I don’t know how I will spread the word and get the support of friends, family, and more when I have a major project ready. All I know for now is that I must have a very good project well and truly ready. I must work out some way to get to my writing group regularly despite the hard work I must do with my family. While online critique groups are great, in-person meetings have by and far the strongest motivational power for me.

For other members of the Insecure Writers Support Group – what gets you writing through feelings of being overwhelmed, through feelings that even your best writing will not be enough?

iwsg

A new #crowdfunding trailer arrives!

Far Flung now has a new trailer!

See it on the “About” page for the project now. It’s a really great video that I had made for me by indie trailer creator Rachel Bostwick, with music and imagery that really captures what Far Flung is all about. Give it a watch and share with your friends!

For my 13 buyers, thank you so much! When this book is finished and in the hands of readers, it will be because of you and your support.

For those who get this message but have not pre-ordered, please do so! Far Flung has enough followers that we could seriously win with one $10 pre-order from everyone who gets this updateShare this page with your friends, share the video, share recommendations, share excerpts!

When the pre-orders get to 20, I will share a new chapter.

The crew will finally meet with the mysterious Eunda race – who happen to know a few things about habitable planets suitable for humans. Is it possible they know about Earth? Find out by throwing in your support at https://www.inkshares.com/books/far-flung!

A slight delay while I’m crowdfunding…

This is embarrassing.

It seems my work with crowdfunding has caused me to fall behind with my pre-scheduled writing exercise posts.

The exercises will return shortly!

In the meantime, help me get the pre-order numbers up for Far Flung. Your help will help me create the best sci-fi experience I can!

pre-order far flung