We’ve talked about some of the structural guidelines for short stories. In this episode we’ll discuss how to write in the short form while still putting down enough words to convey the story powerfully.
Credits: This episode was recorded in Chicago by Andrew Twiss, and mastered by Alex Jackson
We begin our exploration of short story structure with a re-cap of the MACE quotient (Milieu, Ask/Answer, Character, Event). Then we apply that tool to how we structure the pieces we write—specifically the short ones.
Tananrive Due, whose short-fiction expertise is exemplified in her collection, Ghost Summer, joined us on the Oasis of the Seas to talk about how to use short stories to explore aspects of the craft. We discuss the importance of allowing ourselves to fail, and how we can learn from those failures, and continue to push our own limits. We also talk about how we go about pushing those limits, and what we do in order to most effectively explore new techniques.
Credits: This episode was recorded aboard Oasis of the Seas by Bert Grimm, and mastered by Alex Jackson.
At the Out of Excuses Workshop and Retreat we premiered the Season 10 concept, and we invited our attendees to give us the questions we need this month. (They’ll also be the ones providing our questions for February, but we’ll cast our net wide for questions in March.)
Ideas are hard! Is it ever acceptable for inexperienced writers to write derivative works?
How do you keep from being discouraged when something similar to your idea comes out?
How do you know when your idea is a novel, vs. when it’s a short story?
Should you only write for themed anthologies if you already have an idea ready in that theme?
How can you practice description when your idea is set someplace completely unfamiliar to you?
When should you abandon an idea you love?
Liner Notes: We talked about novel-length vs short-story-length ideas in Season 6, Episode 10 when we covered the M.I.C.E. quotient, and again in Season 8, Episode 20, when Mary talked about short story structure. Also, the anthology into which Howard was drafted on the basis of a spur-of-the-moment idea is Shared Nightmares, and his story is called “U.I.”
The number one request we got when we asked you what you’d like us to talk about? Short story writing. Mary is our resident expert, and if she weren’t already a member of the cast, she’d our go-to expert for an interview. Convenient!
We begin by addressing the popular notion that writing short stories is a good way to practice for writing novels, and selling short stories is a way to break in and sell novels. We then return to the M.I.C.E. quotient (first addressed by us in 6.10) and discuss how the quotient (or model, or formula) helps you understand what to cut from the telling of a story to make it a short story.
Mary then walks us through her process for turning an idea into a story concept, and then distilling that concept into a short story. She also invites us to explore her 950-word short, “Evil Robot Monkey,” free of charge!
Dan needs to write a military thriller. It’s just a short story, but still, it’s a bit outside his area of expertise, and he needs help. So in this episode Brandon, Mary, and Howard will endeavor to help him.
The working title? “I.E.Demon”
You can’t read this story yet, but we’ll let you know when you can.