Showing posts with label short story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label short story. Show all posts

Friday, April 12

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line

Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge: Choose Your Opening Line

I love Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenges!

While I haven't succeeded in writing a 1,000 word short story that I could enter, I have succeeded in writing a 5,000 word short story which is something I've been trying to do for a while. Before that they ended up being over 10,000 words and heading into novella territory.

This particular challenge has my muse all perked up and ready to go.

The Challenge

Choose one of the following and make it the first sentence of your story:
1. Once James accepted that he had no choice but to burn the books, the question became which to burn first. — Valerie Valdes

2. Prima donnas aren’t born.
 — Mari Bayo

3. The ghost of a sparrow flitted through one wall and out the other.
 — CJ Eggett

4. I was born beneath a black veil of mourning, a dark bud blooming deep in its shadow. — 
Gina Herron

5. It’s always midnight somewhere.  – Andrew Jack

6. My brother’s birth was preceded by three distinct and inexplicable phenomena. — Jason Heitkamper

7. Max sat amongst the dead, whistling to himself.  – Brad

8. For the second time in a week, I come over Shatter Hill at midnight and see fire at the crossroad below.  – Bill Cameron

9. I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house.
 — Cat York

10. Larry was on the toilet, shitting his brains out, while cleaning his gat.
  – The Philosophunculist

11. The problem with the ringing phone wasn’t how loud it was, or that it hadn’t stopped ringing for an hour, but that Tom didn’t have a phone. — Jake Bible

12. When the last cherry blossom falls, so will my axe.
  – Delilah

13. “You must walk three paces behind me,” she said. “And never raise your eyes to mine.” — Nathan Long

14. Tommy beat him with a kiss, and the crowd hated him for it. — Hector Acosta
Each of the 14 sentences, above, were chosen from over 400 comments left by contributors on Chuck Wendig's blog post last week: Flash Fiction Challenge: The Kick-Ass Opening Line.

Chuck picked three lucky winners who will receive a pre-order of his book Blue Blazes.

The Winners: Chuck Wendig's Picks

3. The ghost of a sparrow flitted through one wall and out the other.
 — CJ Eggett

13. "You must walk three paces behind me,” she said. “And never raise your eyes to mine.” — Nathan Long

12. When the last cherry blossom falls, so will my axe.
 – Delilah
Great choices! Here are my favorites:
9. I never trusted that statue in the garden behind the house.
 — Cat York

11. The problem with the ringing phone wasn’t how loud it was, or that it hadn’t stopped ringing for an hour, but that Tom didn’t have a phone. — Jake Bible

5. It’s always midnight somewhere. – Andrew Jack
All 14 first sentences were creative and contained effective 'hooks' (for more on what makes an effective hook: here and here).

Chuck Wendig's Prize This Week

Although Chuck Wendig is sending Jake, Delilah and Nathan copies of Blue Blazes, he hasn't finished giving stuff away. He writes:
The goal is simple:

To write a story using one of the opening lines above. You can choose from the whole lot — not just the three “winners.” Any of the opening lines you find on this page (again, I think I’ve listed 14 of ‘em) are open game. Choose your opening line and write a piece of flash fiction (up to 1000 words) with that line as the opener. Post it at your online space, link back here.

I’ll choose one person’s story — just one! — to win autographed copies of my books Blackbirds, Mockingbird, and Gods & Monsters. This is open only to US residents (international are welcome to play, but the best prize I can offer you is e-copies of my writing books).
Maybe this will be the week I'll get my story under 1,000 words! (fingers crossed)

Remember: To enter the contest, post your story on your blog then leave a comment, with a link to your story, on Chuck Wendig's blog post.

Question: Which three opening lines (of the 14, above) are your favorite?

Other articles you might like:

- Is Writing Rewriting?
- PubIt! Rebranded as NOOK Press
- Every Buffy Needs A Xander: What Makes A Great Sidekick

Photo credit: "chess" by nestor galina under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, February 15

Writing A Feel Good Story

Writing A Feel Good Story

Occasionally I set out to write a certain kind of story--a horror story for Halloween, an inspirational feel-good story for Christmas or Valentine's Day--one where I'm interested, above all, in creating a certain kind of emotional response in my readers.

I've been thinking and writing about short story structure lately so, after I read Sophie King's chapter, How To Write Feel-Good Stories or Tug-At-The-Heart Tales, I thought I'd do a post on this.

1. Getting the Idea

Think about the state you are attempting to create in the reader at the end of the story. To help fix this in your mind think of either a real life situation that made you feel good about life in general or think about a movie which made you feel this way.

It's corny, but for me that movie is It's A Wonderful Life (1946) with James Stewart. If I was going to write a feel-good story I would watch that movie again and pay special attention to how the movie accomplished this effect.

2. Topics

You could write a feel-good story about anything but a few topics seem tailor made to bring out the emotions.

- Christmas
- Valentine's Day
- Graduation
- The big game
- Reuniting with a loved one
- Finding Mr. or Ms. Right

3. Conflict: There Are Two Sides To Every Coin

Often the conflict required by a feel-good story is contained in the premise. Here are two examples of what I mean by this.

a) Christmas

Christmas is heart-warming because it's a time for friends and family to renew their friendships, to feel that they are a part of something larger than oneself.

The flip-side of camaraderie, of community, can either be the character's beginning state or what she will face (or fear she will face) if she fails the guest.

b) Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day presents the hope of finding 'The One', the person one fits with, like a key in a lock. The one person, in all the world, who can make like complete.

The flip side of this is the fear that the protagonist has (let's call her Jane) that there is no one for her. Or, more concretely, that when she goes out on a date she'll either meet a creep or, what's worse, someone she thinks could be her special someone but who really just wants to use her for their own ends.

For instance, Jane could met two men, Adam and Darren. One of them, Darren, wants to use Jane for his own ends and he bends over backward to charm her, saying what he thinks she wants him to say regardless whether he means it.

At first Jane can't see through see Darren is being fake. The man who genuinely likes her--Adam--bungles things and makes mistakes.

At the 2/3 point--the All Is Lost or Major Setback plot point--have Darren propose marriage. The reader should know by this time that Darren is the wrong guy. Have Jane accept. At the climax of the story--the 3/4 point--Jane recognizes her mistake and chooses Adam (Mr. Right). Jane and Adam live happily ever after.

4. Make It Universal

Whatever topic you choose to base your story on, make sure the emotions are based on life experiences most people can relate to. Events which mark significant life experiences like a graduation, a wedding, or holidays like Christmas or Valentine's Day. The possibilities are endless.

5. The Test: Is The Mood Right?

When I write a horror story if I'm not even a little bit scared then I know I need to step the tension/conflict up a notch or three. It's the same with feel-good stories. If I don't feel at least a little bit warm and cozy thinking about the ending then I need to ratchet up the conflict. Perhaps this means adjusting the stakes (what the protagonist will win and what they'll lose if they fail), perhaps it means adjusting the characters, making the antagonist a bit more callous, making the good guy or gal just a bit more heroic.

Tomorrow I'll talk more about short stories and their structure.

Have you ever written a feel-good story? Was it a novel or a short story? Did you succeed in eliciting emotion in your readers? If you had it to do over again would you do anything differently?

Other articles you might like:

- How To Write Short Stories
- Fate Core And The Creation Of Magical Worlds
- Roleplaying Games, Writing, And The Creation Of Magical Systems

Photo credit: "Lemon Drops" by LadyDragonflyCC <3 data-blogger-escaped-a="" data-blogger-escaped-amsung="" data-blogger-escaped-canon="" data-blogger-escaped-vs=""> under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, December 13

How To Write A Twitter Story

How To Write A Twitter Story

Twitter is a new, challenging, medium for storytelling, one with its own set of quirks. Today I'd like to take a look at the subject of writing for Twitter. Not novels, not at this stage at least! But short works like short stories or flash fiction.

How To Write Good Twitter Flash Fiction

Gayle Beveridge in How To Write A Good Twitter Story gives three wonderful tips:

a) Your story must have a beginning, a middle and an end

Just like it's longer cousin a story must have a structure, there must be movement, an arc. Gayle gives the following example of a story without an end:
At an auction they bought a box of stuff and spent a melancholy evening reading the one hundred year old love letters of complete strangers.
Here it is with one:
At auction they bought a box of stuff, spent a melancholy night reading the 100-year-old love letters of complete strangers and loved anew.

b) Your story must have a character that needs something

Gayle gives the following example:
A full story will have a character who must deal with something. The following story lacks impact as its character is not challenged; she does not want for anything.
During El-Nino the angler fish rose to the surface. While her husband fished she found them, floating dead.
Add tension and a dull story about a fishing trip becomes one of a women struggling with a mundane life.
During El-Nino the angler fish rose to the surface. While her husband fished she found them. Floating. Dead. She sighed, "They are my life."

 c) Your story must be easy to read

Pronouns are your friend, don't omit them to squeeze more words into 140 characters. Again, here's Gayle's example:
Stonemason chips away at last job before retirement. Will be best.  Passion carved headstone. Written words of love, 'My beloved, my wife'.
Rewrite the story and test it by reading it aloud.
A stonemason chips away at his last job before retirement. It will be his best.  A headstone, carved with passion. 'My beloved, my wife'.
All quotations in this section are from Gayle Beveridge's excellent article: How To Write A Good Twitter Story

A Tweet Sized Story: Examples

In October a number of well-known authors were asked to write what may be the ultimate flash fiction: they were asked to write a story in 140 characters or less. Here are a few:

Ian Rankin:

I opened the door to our flat and you were standing there, cleaver raised. Somehow you'd found out about the photos. My jaw hit the floor.

Geoff Dyer

I know I said that if I lived to 100 I'd not regret what happened last night. But I woke up this morning and a century had passed. Sorry.

Jeffrey Archer

"It's a miracle he survived," said the doctor. "It was God's will," said Mrs Schicklgruber. "What will you call him?" "Adolf," she replied.

You can read the rest here: Twitter fiction: Twitter fiction: 21 authors try their hand at 140-character novels.

Also, if you want to read wonderfully spooky stories that are only 140 characters are less, click here: Scared Twitless.

Tweeting A Longer Tale: The Short Story on Twitter

i. Make the plot appropriate to the format

In 2009 Rick Moody published a short story in 153 consecutive tweets, one each hour. Moody said he tried to make his plot--a story about online dating--appropriate for the "merciless brevity" of Twitter. (See: Are Tweets Literature? Rick Moody Thinks They Can Be)

Brandon J. Mendelson, another Tweeting pioneer, agrees. He writes
If a character is mugged at 6am, you could post a police announcement on the Twitter novel looking for the perpetrator. What are the characters listening to on the radio? Is someone calling them that’s important to the story? Use Twitpic to show a photo of one of your friends or an actor to show the reader who is calling or what the mugger looks like. (How to Start a Twitter Novel)

ii. Have A Roadmap

Have an outline but don't let that limit your creativity. (See: Mary Robinette Kowal and The Mysteries of Outlining)

iii. Don't Be A Slave To The Machine

Use a service like Hootsuite to schedule tweets.

iv. Don't Overload Readers

Brandon recommends tweeting no more than 5 times a day while Rick Moody tweeted once an hour. Find what works for you and your readers. If you have a website perhaps put up a poll and ask them.

v. Move The Story Forward With Each Tweet

This is true for any story, but especially a tweeted one. Each and every tweet must advance the story. If it doesn't, cut it.

vi. Be Kind To Newbies

Brandon mentions that, with luck, you'll get new followers/readers as you go. Set up a page on your website--or create a simple website if you don't have one already--that contains all the tweets in the story so far, including the day/time they were tweeted, if that's important. Then put the URL to the page in your Twitter Bio so it appears at the top of the page.


- How to Write Twitter Stories (Tzvetan Todorov's five stages of narrative)

Other articles you might like:

- Why Your Story Should Have A Theme
- Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster And The Importance Of Agents
- Turning Off Your Inner Editor

Photo credit: "[ Grand Style : Grand Light : Grand Hotel ] The Langham Hotel, London, United Kingdom @ Langham Place" by || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL || under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, May 25

Writer Beware: Undead Press & Editing Clauses

Edited: June 23, 2021:
Hi, I just received this comment:
"Hey, it seems that actually refers to something about our domain name from 2012.. Way before we bought this domain name, that is not related to us in any way. We bought the domain a few months back. Somehow this ended up as a comment about our site on Facebook now."

I don't want to remove this post because I think history is important. However, (and I haven't researched the claim being made) I see no reason not to believe that the domain name has been sold. Please do keep this in mind when deciding whether to submit your work to Undead Press. And, please, ALWAYS read the terms of service of any publishing company before you submit your work to them.  Here is a link to the Terms and Conditions of Undead Press.

Here is the original post: 

Imagine getting your work accepted for publication, waiting on pins and needles for your copy of the work to arrive, ripping open the package, and finding it had been substantially altered without your permission. Mandy DeGeit sent her short story to Undead Press, it was accepted, but on publication not only was her title misspelled but her story had been substantially altered. She writes:
Let’s see: They turned a non-gendered character into a boy, they named the best friend, they created a memory for the main character about animal abuse. They added a suggestion of rape at the end… I feel like they ruined the suspense in the story.
- When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press
After bringing this to the publisher's attention (Anthony Giangregorio) this is what he had to say:
wow, i truly cant believe that e,mail. you go girl. this one one hell of a story about dealing with unstable writers
lets see.
on the contract, it clearly says publisher has the right to EDIT work. you signed it. are you saying you are a dishonest and immoral person and will now try to deny you signed the contract? well i have a copy right here and as for the story. the editor had a hard time with it, it was very rough and he did alot to make it readable. despite what you think, your writing has a long way to go before its worthy of being printed professionally. we did what we had to do to make the story printable. you should be thankful, not complaining. ah, the ungrateful writer, gotta love it the contract also says any disagreements you have about the contract must be filed legally in Massachusetts and when you lose, you must pay all court costs. so, we are done here. any more correspondences from you must be from your lawyer. i will then send any of those letters to my lawyer and they can hash it out as i dont waste my time arguing with writers over legalities. thats what lawyers are for. you are so funny. thanks for this email, it truly made my day.
- When publishing goes wrong…Starring Undead Press
I don't know where to begin, this reply lacks any sort of professionalism, any sort of respect for the writer. But that isn't the worst of it. This is from the folks over at Writer Beware:
Ms. DeGeit's bad experience with Mr. Giangregorio, unfortunately, doesn't seem to be an isolated incident. Similar complaints are appearing in her comments thread, and other writers have reported the same kinds of problems with Undead Press and other publishing ventures run by Giangregorio--who, among other exploits, has apparently published and sold several unauthorized sequels to George Romero's Dawn of the Dead.
- Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts: How to Protect Yourself
PG, from The Passive Voice Blog, is a contract lawyer who specializes in contracts between writers and publishers. Here's what he has to say:
PG will add one more piece of general advice concerning all types of agreements: Don’t do deals with crooks or jerks.

Even with the best contract in the world, if the people on the other side of the agreement are crooks or jerks, you’re going to have a difficult time. On more than one occasion, PG has told a client something like, “With some work, I can probably get your contract whipped into shape, but this guy is still going to drive you crazy and figure out some way to steal from you.”

PG has read enough contracts so he sometimes picks up hints of jerkiness in the way the contracts are worded or assembled.

He can think of one contract from a romance publisher that included all sorts of short clauses about minor items he doesn’t usually see in publishing contracts. The net impression for PG was that the owner of the publisher was a control freak who was going to tell the author exactly how every little thing would be and expected no back talk. The answer to any question or objection by the author would be, “I’m the publisher and you’re not.”
- Editing Clauses in Publishing Contracts
I think that Kris Rusch's advice about reading a contract line by line is terrific. Keeping in mind, of course, that taking someone to court can be an expensive and time consuming ordeal even if you know the other party clearly broke the contract and you're sure to win.

Further reading:
- Unconscionability

"Writer Beware: Undead Press & Editing Clauses," copyright© 2012 by Karen Woodward.