Sunday, May 29, 2011

Constructing a Short Story

My short stories tend to hang around in my head for months or even years waiting to be written. They bubble to the surface occasionally, get turned over, and sink back into the depths to cook a bit longer. There are five of them there now. The reason for this is that stories rarely come fully-formed.

My stories start life as one of several things:

• A concept – maybe a location or piece of technology
• A character – perhaps an alien or someone with an unusual trait
• A plot – but without any detail
• A title – something that sounds good but has nothing to go with it
• A snippet of prose – normally an introduction or a conclusion

Over time, hopefully these seeds will accrete the other parts necessary to make a whole tale. It’s not until I have a plot, with an interesting concept behind it, at least one definite character, a title, an introduction and fairly-well defined conclusion, that I start writing. That way I can write from beginning to end, normally in several sittings, and get a complete draft. The plot in the middle may change along the way, the character, concept or location may transform into something else and the title may change, but at least I don’t waste the limited writing time I have available.

It’s the cooking that counts. Excuse me while I go and stir a few ideas again.

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