Building the End of the Story – my results

You can see more of these exercises here.

For some very good reasons, these posts will be shorter and not on schedule!


In the last post, I urged you to write an ending that diverges from the obvious…

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The straight, expected path represents your story without any twists, nothing unexpected. The right ending, however, takes the reader off that path to a better, more meaningful ending. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but it does have to require the reader to pay attention every step of the way.
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Building a Short Story Part 3 – The End?

You can see more of these exercises here.

For some very good reasons, these posts will be shorter and not on schedule!


My Story So Far

In the middle of my story-in-progress, Memory Exchange, I added the interplay between the two main characters that gives two main complications to the story. In my case, the ending has already been telegraphed somewhat. Robert, my MC, has his reservations about using this power that teleports him at the cost of specific memories. Carla, his lover and mentor, appeals to his desire to be with his mother for Thanksgiving and his desire to truly use this new ability she has taught him.

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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.

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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!

Planning out a writing course, week by week.

Trying to figure out what I'll tell these students...

 

I’ve talked before about my writing course that I’m teaching in September. The planning is slow, but I keep chugging away at it. I changed my textbook – now I’m using Fiction Writer’s Workshop by Josip Novakovich. I choose it because the exercises there are easy to reword for my ESL students.

I’ve also had to devise a way to “filter” my students. I hate to impose any kind of filter on my class, but I feel it will be necessary to turn away students who have not had practice with basic creative writing. I plan to give a very simple exercise in my very first class, and I will tell students that it is a sort of test. Any students who struggle too greatly with it will be advised to take more basic writing classes instead of mine.

My new choice of book has made creating homework much easier! Every chapter in the book has great little exercises, and I’m finding it easy to reword these into assignments for the students. Each week, the assignments will practice some aspect like Setting, Characters, POV, etc. I think I will handle evaluation mainly with in-class readings and peer-review sessions.

After the midterm test, I have a series of lessons that focus specifically on short-short fiction. As you can see in the picture above, I’m not going to be incredibly strict with the definition of “Flash Fiction” – I’d rather see my students tell whole stories coherently before we worry about the word count.

During these lessons, the students will each write 3 short pieces. In the editing phase, they can choose 1 of the 3 to revise again and again into better work. They will give me that best piece at the end, instead of writing a final exam.

I hope I can get a good class out of this plan. It’s still very much in the works – as you can see, I have until September 4 to plan things out. It feels very good to work on this, though. No matter what, I’m certain that I can give my students a writing experience that they will appreciate and enjoy.

I’m Teaching a Writing Class!

Well, I can’t believe I proposed it, got accepted, and I’m going to do it.

I’m going to teach a flash fiction course at my university.  The students are mostly Koreans who speak English as their second language. What can I teach them?

I know what I CAN’T teach them – I can’t teach them to be expert, professional writer (even if I actually fell into that category myself). I’ve 15 weeks of semester, so that’s just not possible.

Okay, so what CAN I teach them?

I will run through the basics of writing, with Making of a Story as one guide, and a multitude of internet resources. I can share flash fiction pieces I find online, and I can get my students reading sites like Every Day Fiction. I can teach basic critical analysis, and I also plan on giving a primer on the world of e-publishing.

There’s no final exam in my plan for the course. Instead, I’m thinking of having a self-published anthology of the students’ best works that goes up on Smashwords, Kindle, Lulu, CreateSpace, and anywhere else that accepts self-published writing.

This gives the students a look at the basic process, and my university likes the idea because it puts the name of the institution on internationally published work. Will the book be a masterpiece? Well…. let’s say I hope it at least gives the students confidence that they CAN keep improving and that they CAN get published.

After I’ve done this course once or twice, I plan to publish my curriculum and syllabus – I hope that what I get out of this will also prove useful to other aspiring writers.

If you, my readers, have any ideas or suggestions for what I should put into a flash course, please leave your comments!

Until next time, I’ve got A LOT of work to do!