Mastering the Short Story
Mastering The Short Story
Although I perceive Paul Darcy Boles to be an uppity, egotistic, and somewhat euphorically rambling old man from his style of writing, there is some beneficial information for someone wishing to create a commercially viable short story. However, I feel that creating a story with the goal of marketability is a grave mistake that ruins countless numbers of otherwise perfectly enjoyable works of literature. It is no surprise that this style of writing is being taught to the new generation, which promises to be far more creative than it’s predecessors.
Boles’ first advice is to follow Chekhov’s observation: "The art of writing is the art of abbreviation." A story of 3000 words or less has no need for excessive 1 paragraph descriptions. "Today’s reader" (whoever that is) has no need for the descriptive style found in older works. So much for Alistair MacLeod.
A lot of importance is put on not stringing random sentence s together. Each sentence should be aimed towards a specific goal. The sum total of these sentences is your story. Boles’ views a sentence as a factor in a mathematical equation. He also gets almost romantic about the sentence as a living, sentient being. Once you shovel the pop-lit drivel where it belongs, you are free to apply his suggestions to your own work.
It is a good idea to check your story for too much obvious meaning. Not only will this make the story shorter and clearer, the hidden meanings imbedded in the story will have a chance to be probed and discovered. As well, avoid "signpost" sentences that could easily be replaced by more legitimate conversations or actions.
A lot of emphasis is put on simulating a sense of "in-ness"; that is, giving your work a believable lived in feeling. When reading the story, one should have a clear picture of the environment around it’s characters, and it is of imperial importance that it is realistic.
In conclusion, Boles discusses the important of a strong beginning and ending. The first word or sentence should be powerful, but be prepared to follow through with similar statements throughout the story. If the beginning is too shocking, the rest of the story will have a tough time following it’s lead.
Likewise, the ending is equally as important to the overall stability of the story. Know when to end it - most likely as soon as the conflict is resolved. Don’t waste the reader’s time and attention with fluffy conclusions.