Archive for August, 2015

Keeping it Short

My blog circle post for this month… I nearly forgot!

Writing Short Stories
For those who write them often, give us some advice! For those who are new to the technique, what was the hardest thing to learn?

I started off writing short stories.  In fact, I still have trouble writing stories that many people would consider novel length.  Usually, the best I can manage is a piece of novella length.  However, even as I practice trying to write longer, richer stories, I haven’t stopped writing the short pieces.

The best advice I can give is: read!  Read short stories of various length and by various authors.  Look at how they do things and learn from them.  Some authors don’t bother giving the characters names.  In a short story, you can do that.  Some authors don’t bother describing anyone.  Again: in a short story, that’s fine.  Other writers, even in short stories, are very descriptive.  It depends on their writing style and the goal of the story they are writing.

The hardest thing to learn is that you need to keep in mind what your goal is in the story.  Unlike novels (or even novellas), short stories don’t have subplots or side plots.  They have one single plot that travels from beginning to end in the space of not more than about 17K words.  Many short stories are even shorter than that.  They were, at their heart, intended to be read in a single sitting.

So, decide what the main goal of your story is at the outset and stick to it.  Introduce only the characters you need to complete the story.  Introduce only the settings and ideas you need for the single main plot.  Don’t let yourself get distracted by side characters and their stories.  You can hint that there might be something more going on (it might fuel another short story), but don’t let yourself travel down that path and get distracted from the main plot.  That, to me, always seems to be the hardest thing to learn.

Bonus: Who is your favorite short story writer? If you don’t have one, tell us about one you’re going to try and hunt down.

My favorite short story writer is probably Edger Allen Poe.  He’s one of those authors that I read in school, usually during the poetry or short story “chapter” of my literature class.  This past year, I also read my way through several of his short stories, in a collection that my sister gave me one Christmas.  His writing isn’t for everyone, but I always enjoy it.

A Review: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was the first time I’ve “read” an audio book. It was a really different experience, not too different from when I was a little girl and had the teacher read me a story. It was also great, because I could work and still “read” the book.

Kate Burton did a wonderful job in reading the book. It wasn’t simply a matter of having the book read to you. She read dramatically – with feeling. She used different voices for the characters, really making them come to life.

There were parts of the story that were really sad and other parts that were really happy. It was interesting to see how the family’s lot in life very slowly improved. By the time I reached the final disc, I was sad to see the story coming to an end.

I was really saddened by what happened with Francie and the one soldier. I loved what happened with McShane and Katie. It was nice to see things turn out all right for her and for the children. Everything that happened was… so much like life.

It’s funny, my CD player had been set on random, so I started with the seventh track of the book, rather than the first. As a result, the first part of the book that I listened to was the very part that is echoed later on in the book. It was so, so strange that I’d heard that part first. I also loved the circular part with the end of the book, where Francie see Florie on the fire escape…

At the same time, in listening to the book, I realized why I was unable to finish the story when I was in high school. There was quite a bit of foul language in the story. At the time when I was reading it – in ninth grade – I just couldn’t handle that sort of language. I am really happy that I went back to this book now, at an older age. I could get past the foul language to see the beauty in the writing.

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Review of Corduroy by Don Freeman

CorduroyCorduroy by Don Freeman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a favorite of mine when I was a little girl. As a child, it was just a fun story about a little teddy bear searching for his lost button. As an adult – it is so much more than that! Corduroy wasn’t merely looking for his lost button – he was looking for a home and a friend. He finds both in Lisa, the little girl who first sees him in the store and determines that he’s the bear she’s always wanted. She returns for him the next morning and, as she’s sewing a new button on his overalls declares that she loves him just as he is (but he’ll be more comfortable with both straps tacked down). Isn’t that something everyone wants? Someone who will love and accept us just as we are?

So… yeah, reading this little children’s book as an adult, it takes on a much deeper meaning for me. I’m really glad that I chose to re-read it. It makes me want to track down some of my other childhood favorites and re-read them too.

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