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Saturday, November 26, 2011


A short short is a short story that usually contains between 1200 - 1500 words. Experienced writers can spit 1500 before breakfast. It's as easy for them as swiping a credit card.
        However, an experienced writer also knows that writing the short short can be more difficult than writing a full length novel. The brevity of the story constricts the wordsmith, depriving him of developing character, plot and setting, all of which he can develop fully in a short story, a novella or a full-length novel. Every line and paragraph of the short short must be significant to carry the story forward with rapidity and terseness.
Like a prize fighter, the author of the short short attempts to score points with each swing of the pen. To accomplish this task, it is vitally important that you plan your short short well, from start to finish, long before you begin a first draft. There is no wiggle room, no chance to elaborate and not a word to waste.

To help with my writing, I developed a six-step formula to guide my pen from beginning to end of the short short. I hope that you will find it useful, as well.
  1. Plan your story well, dividing it into three parts - beginning, middle and end. Write the end of your story first. Knowing where and how your story is going to wind up will keep the beginning and middle parts in line. This will insure that you do not veer off your story. In the short short you must keep on track.
  2. When writing the beginning of your story use the Plunge Opening. This means that you must leap straight into the problem that confronts your main character. Now, with the beginning and the end written, the middle of your story will practically write itself.
  3. Allow the reader an opportunity to bond with your protagonist, be he/she good or bad. Readers want to sympathize with your main character and need to understand the motivation behind the action your main character takes. It is therefore wise to focus your few precious words on characterization rather than on setting.
  4. Make certain your characters are consistent. Don’t end the story with your good guy suddenly turning bad or the reverse. Never introduce an unknown character who will suddenly come out of the blue to save the day. Readers aren't going to buy it and they will resent you for it.
  5. Use strong dialogue to move the story along. Don’t tell the reader that your leading lady is angry. Instead, have her scream at someone. It’s a lot more effective.
  6. Finally, write a story that is worth the read. Give us an ending we’ll remember. Yes, I know, some people say “it’s all about the journey.” However, when it comes to story telling, that statement doesn't ring true. A surprise ending is ideal, and most sought-after short shorts are those with surprise endings - something with a twist. But if you can’t think of a story with a plot twist, make certain the ending has the reader going away with the desire to read your next story, the one after that, the one after that, and so on.

    Thursday, November 10, 2011

    Important Principle of Writing #6: The Beauty of Self Expression

    John Gardner (1933 - 1982) in his book The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft For Young Writers wrote, “It (self-expression) comes about inevitably.”
    What a benefit it is for the writer of fiction to understand this concept before putting pen to paper. If what Gardner wrote is true, and I believe it is, then no matter what you write, there will always be a self-expressive quality about the work. Do not attempt to negate this fact. Instead, recognize the self-expression in your writing and use it to your advantage. Be conscious of what you feel. Think about what you write and ask why. The answers you come up with will reveal your inner-most emotions, those that are buried in your subconscious. Don't write for the reader. Instead, get to know yourself. It was Joseph Campbell (1904-1987,) the great mythologist, who wrote, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” I believe the thrill of a lifetime is finding out who you are.

    Wednesday, November 9, 2011

    Send the Memo

    I’m living the nightmare that everyone has. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one where you’re back in grammar school and the teacher starts handing out test papers and you did’t study because you didn’t know there was going to be a damn test.

    Six years ago I published my first novel. Back then it was a mortal sin to self publish. At the time, I was good at mortal sins so I figured self publishing was for me. Now, everyone I talk to is writing and self publishing a book. And forget traditional, in-your-hand books. Everyone is creating e books and selling them for 99 cents. What’s that all about? And why didn’t I get that memo? I’m still working on getting my words onto paper. When were they going to tell me that's not done anymore?

    Oh, and when were they going to tell me about social networking? I didn’t know it’s a must to have 40,000 Twitter followers. How do you get 40,000 followers and what do you do with them, once you get them? It reminds me of the movie Sergeant York with Gary Cooper, where he captures hundreds of German prisoners and no one knows what to do with them.

    Okay, so here’s the deal. In the future, should a radical change take place in the publishing industry, I would appreciate someone letting me know. Send the memo. Please?

    Friday, November 4, 2011

    The Power of Stories Part 2

    I have had more than one person ask for a reiteration of my thoughts on the power of stories. This, then, is part 2 on the subject.
    The idea of power in stories is a new concept for me, but one that keeps cropping up in my reading and in my thoughts. Phil Cousineau in his book Once and Future Myths talks about the Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives. Gordon Farrell in his book, The Power of the Playwright's Vision talks about the importance of the author's vision in a wold that has lost its unifying vision of life.

    These are not new concepts. These thoughts go back to Plato, who believed that the author (and artist) had a sacred responsibility to influence his readers for the betterment of society as a whole.
    Authors are many times so caught up in the art of writing they lose sight that their writing influences people to act and react. This is power. Any thoughts?

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    The Power of Stories

    The power of stories can not be measured by the books we read or the films we watch. For many, the effects of storytelling began long ago, in infancy. Stories affect the way in which we think, the method of how we perceive, and they induce the intensity of our emotions.
    “Not until we tell ourselves a story can we make sense of our experience,” says Jerome Bruner, the noted psychologist. Stories anchor our beliefs, and at the same time, set them free. Stories present a yardstick by which we relate all things. They are the lies of fisherman and they are the truths that are held by the faithful. They are the fables, the myths, and the classics. They are timeless, traditional, immortal, and unforgettable. At the same time, they are contemporary, modern, and up to date. Some stories disappear almost at the exact second they are told.
    For me, stories are a way of life. Storytelling is how I communicate my thoughts and emotions. All life is a metaphor. Have you told a story today?