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!

Building a Short Story, Part 1

You can see other writing exercises here.

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!


Support my Inkshares campaign for Far Flung

I need your help to reach 250 pre-orders – click here for the full details about why and how I’m getting this sci-fi novel done through Inkshares.

Click the picture below to help this book become a reality. Let’s explore the universe together!

campaign

 

Final Thoughts on Second-Person POV

You can see other writing exercises here.

On Tuesday I wrote about the Late Student prompt in the 2nd-Person. It was a rather awkward exercise!

For your own example, you want to check the character’s actions and feelings for consistency. You are projecting these aspects onto the reader, and asking the reader to play a role. That means the reader has to understand the role and the character motivations very well. In a successful 2nd-person story, the reader would have to understand all of the choices made by the focus character. The reader should think That’s what I’d do in that situation.

Maybe now it’s really clear why 2nd-person is used for role-playing and books with multiple endings – those offer the reader (or player) choices as if they were really experiencing the events. A book written in 2nd-person with no branching choices would likely be a frustrating read:

In the story: “You run across the street despite the heavy traffic.”

Reader: “No, I freaking don’t, come on!”


An Upcoming Second-Person Novel – Mutants: Uprising

Anyway, for the conclusion of this month centered on POV, I’ll point you to another entry in the same Nerdist contest that my story is currently in. It’s called Mutants: Uprising by Jane-Holly Meissner, and the whole thing is written in the 2nd-person. See the sample here and judge for yourself how well it works!


 

Please support my Inkshares campaign for Far Flung

I need your help to reach 250 pre-orders – click here for the full details about why and how I’m getting this sci-fi novel done through Inkshares.

Click the picture below to help this book become a reality. Let’s explore the universe together!

 

POV Exercise – The Late Student, Part 3

You can see other writing exercises here.

The Late Student, Part 3 – All about you

Welcome back! We’re trying out different takes on one scene to get practice writing in different points of view.

This prompt is getting old, huh? That’s the thing about serious writing, though – you can expect to do multiple takes on the same prompt. If you ever get into ghostwriting, you’ll have to work with prompts and needed plot details you might not like – but you’ll have to give it your best. Ideally, an author should be able to generate a story from any prompt!


A student walks into the classroom late. The student walks down the aisle and sits in an empty seat. The professor stops the lecture for a moment to watch the student. The professor tries to continue the lecture, but he forgets what he was talking about and looks a bit frustrated and annoyed.


 

For our final take, let’s do 2nd-person!

Choose a character in the scenario and turn him or her into the reader.  You’re going to be telling the reader what he or she is doing. (Maybe it’s not hard to see why 2nd-person POV is rarely used outside role-playing and Choose Your Own Adventure books.)

This is my first attempt at 2nd-person ever. This is just for fun – it’s very difficult to sell anything written in the 2nd-person, and professional authors usually avoid it.

I will put the reader in the role of the professor:


You turn your eyes to the door as Daniel walks into the classroom. You quickly turn back to your lecture notes. Now is not the time; let him think you didn’t notice. You scan the notes – there it is, the bit about Constantine’s rise to power. You narrate, building the story of Roman history to a crescendo, and lowering your voice again as the paragraphs reach a natural break.

Erika, the one with the atrocious dye job, passes notes to Daniel, and you see your opportunity. You pounce. “So nice of you to join us, Daniel.”

The dejection on his face almost brings a smile to yours. If you cannot have the satisfaction of a student excelling with the material, schadenfreude will have to do.


I really want to see what you can do with 2nd-person POV

So few people write in it, it would be awesome to see more takes. I will return to this exercise on Thursday and in the future to revise and improve the examples – this could be a really fun and weird writing exercise for my students.

See you on Thursday!


 

Please support my Inkshares campaign for Far Flung

I need your help to reach 250 pre-orders – click here for the full details about why and how I’m getting this sci-fi novel done through Inkshares.

Click the picture below to help this book become a reality. Let’s explore the universe together!