I knew I’d get the wording right eventually.
I don’t consider myself an expert on short stories, symptoms sickness even though I have one published. A few months back, buy sale before I got that one story accepted, visit this I tried to make a list at how I looked at them. I figure it would be interesting to review.
I think that an effective fantasy short story should have the following elements, in the following priority:
- A cool idea, whether based in plot, character, world-building, or theme. Something that people might want to talk about afterwards.
- Clean tight writing. It’s with a bit of surprise that I realize I haven’t got a post on this topic yet to link to. Important in all writing, but even more so in a short story.
- A clear emotional goal for the reader. What do you want the reader to FEEL at the climax of your story. Maybe the answer is relief from tension, as you have a high-octane action story, maybe it’s a pang of loss or nostalgia. But whatever it is, it’s worth considering. There are tricks to creating reader emotional reaction, if you know exactly what you’re trying for.
- Some kind of surprise, whether plot reversal, story revelation, or character action. But while surprising, the seeds of the reversal need to be hinted at earlier in the story (the ‘rule of three’).
- Goals and obstacles. Really, no post on this one either? I seem to be roaming around on cool topics, but skipping over some essentials. Will try to remedy! But anyway, clear character goals and obstacles in a scene creates tension.
- An early hook. A first sentence and early paragraphs that intrigue and raises interesting questions, without creating confusion (a fine line, as I’ve talked about here). This is often tied to your ‘cool idea’, above, and why reading widely is a help. If your cool idea has been explored by a well known story, it’s not cool anymore, but derivative. Boo!
- A meaningful resolution that ties all the major elements of the story together as a package(thought-provoking is a bonus).
- Nothing extra. No extraneous characters, setting, world-building, or other elements that distract or are not contributing to that overall package. See Egg or Wiffle Ball, where I talk about my occasional struggles with this concept, as I am often more intrigued by a first chapter than a short story, which therefore means I often have unrelated stuff that would only be explored later. A fine line to walk.
That’s it for my package today! No tip for delivery required (mailman joke there, not anything else, for people who’s minds have sunk so far into the gutter that they can’t see their way out! He he. Shame on you.)
Here’s to a productive and successful 2016!!
The art is a first and VERY quick character sketch for Bernetta Brogi, a young lady who swings a couple of mean axes, in StoneDragon. I’m polishing up my world building wiki in this draft, and doing a bit more character work. I may polish up the character sketches more later, but you may also see some other quick charcoal pieces in the coming months. It just helps me to visualize and keep the details consistent.
This took about fifteen minutes this morning, with some interruptions as I was summoned to the Little Prince’s room.