Monday, March 30, 2015

The Job of My Dreams

I am a believer in lifelong learning. I suppose if spring came by its definitive day in March and the green buds on the trees were money instead of leaves, I would be a professional student. What a fun job that would be!

I heard about a Saturday class at the library on fiction writing. Of course I got excited, even though I write nonfiction by trade. A local author, Chrystal Berche was going to teach how to write a short story. She had published 140 short stories just this year and her book was picked up by a publisher. She had the creative flair and it was burning hot at the moment. I signed up.

Chrystal began by focusing on the optimum word length publishers like for fiction stories, which was 3,500 words. Though flash fiction is popular today and that is only 500 words. Some reviews, she pointed out, simply stated that a story was good because it was a quick read. Speaking of quick reads, there is also Twitter fiction, which is only 140 characters. Ernest Hemingway would have been the master with his baby shoes story I wrote about last week!

Chrystal defined a short story as a "slice of life" with a beginning, middle, and end. Because the word count is limited, a short story needs to have one point view and no more than three characters - one or two is actually best. The writer must capture the readers attention immediately and hold it throughout. Focusing on one or two characters and giving them a strong voice is a good plan of action for the writer. Too many viewpoints and/or characters confuses the reader. Excellent points that hold true for both fiction and nonfiction genres.

She went on to discuss the three different points of view - first person, second person, and third person. First person (I, I, I) is difficult to write in a short story. Many readers do not enjoy hearing just one person's thoughts or point of view.

The second person point of view is not well liked by readers either. The reader tends to feel he is being told what to do with this you, you, you style of writing. Although, second person is common and acceptable in how-to articles and books.

Third person, Chrystal described, is like someone looking down and giving the reader a broad spectrum of what is happening. This point of view also gives the writer more space to grow the characters and story.

Chrystal taught us the elements of short story writing and let us launch our own writing pieces in the process. We began by brainstorming turning points or jumping off points. These are similar to writing prompts except they are ideas that we came up with and chose as pivotal points to write about, not a random idea given by an English teacher.

We analyzed the turning points together, making sure each of our ideas were feasible to write in the 3,500 word limit for a short story. Some ideas were too involved requiring so many words that it could be a novella. A short story is a "slice of life" not an entire lifetime.

I could keep going as the class was five hours and quite a learning adventure, I must add. But, I will end this post after one more utterance. I will let you in on the first line or "the hook to pull the reader in" to my short story. Let me know if it works for you!

“Save the beer!” bellowed the unshaven, shirtless man on the dilapidated pontoon boat. He used his hand to deflect the sun so he could see the small boat sinking.

Do you want to read more?

No comments:

Post a Comment