Writing Short Stories
I fell asleep a month ago toying with an idea for a piece of fiction. I didn’t know what piece of fiction was but I had a throw-away idea to put in it. I woke up the next morning and had a fully formed short-story puttering around in my head so I jumped up put pen to paper. (Metaphorically. Do people still do handwriting?)
I send it away to a good friend who also happens to be a writer and an editor for an online magazine. His response was very similar to his response to my girlfriend’s story. That ’nothing happened’ in the story. While the environment was set, there was no actual narrative
He has an excellent point. Nothing happens at all in either story, but my girlfriend’s story won a short story writing prize with it a few weeks later. So what’s up? Is my friend crazy? No, I don’t think so. And thus we come to my newest theory.
Dan’s Theory of Writing Short Stories.
I submit that there are three types of story. The first one in which something happens. The plot occurs as you’re reading it. This is a common type of writing. Introduce characters, Allow their story to play out, Find out what happens at the end. Easy and satisfying.
The second type of story is the one in which the plot happens after the story has finished. You get the build up, you get the scenario and the author makes it so apparent what the result is that he can finish early and let you fill in the blanks. This is very similar to the first type of story but for the fact that you can feel clever because you figured out what the author was getting at. I particularly like to write this sort of thing into my comics
The third type of story is the one in which whatever plot elements occur have already occurred long beforehand. I tend to call these stories ’slice-of-life" stories. You read about the day to day activities of characters and learn about the circumstances that led to them being at that point. There’s no sting in the tail. There’s simply ideas and illumination. The reader is invited to fill in any blanks but they don’t need to as generally there’s nothing to ’get’.
If you’re really interested feel free to read my story in which nothing happens
posted at 1:38 am Friday January 20 2006