I always say that writing a novella or short is such an art. I’ve also often remarked that Lacey Savage is really good at it. Luckily for us, she’s going to give tips on what creates a great novella-good stuff for either a reader or writer to understand. Welcome friend and author Lacey Savage to the Explosive contest!
The Effortless Short Story
by Lacey Savage
Some authors claim writing a short story is more difficult than penning an entire novel. I’ve never been one of those authors.
For me, a short story forms naturally. It’s (dare I say it?) effortless to write. It practically falls from my fingertips onto the page, and it rarely needs revisions before being submitted.
In contrast, a novel is a nightmare to write. I get tangled in plot threads, confused by my characters, and uncertain about how much detail is too much detail. I still write novels, and I’m happy with the results when I finally submit one to my editor, but the process is never anywhere close to effortless.
The tight focus of a short story suits my limited attention span rather well. Because of the low word count, I’m constrained by a number of factors. Yet rather than finding this limiting, I’m forced to just… tell the story. One event and its repercussions. One glimpse into the lives of interesting people, caught doing interesting things.
My writing career started with a short story. I’ll willing to bet that when I’m old and gray and can barely see the computer screen, my writing career will end with a short story, too.
Until then, here are a few things I’ve learned about the art of the short story:
1. One major event. When I only have a few thousand words to work with, I don’t have time to tell you about my character’s tryst with the milkman, the male stripper orgy during her 30th birthday party, the time she got run off the road by a garbage truck, and the day she adopted a puppy. I have to choose one event (I’m partial to the stripper orgy, but that’s just me), and focus in on it. I zoom in tight, just like I would through a camera lens. Then I capture that night in all its marvelous glory, and put you smack-dab in the middle of that party.
2. Suck in those timelines. This goes hand in hand with my first point. Since I’ve closed in on that unforgettable event, and I’m having you experience it along with my heroine, then we don’t need to meander all over the place. You don’t care that she went shopping for a blue dress with gold sequins the day before. Or that a week later she’s trying to return the dress but the salesperson notices a tell-tale stain on the front and refuses to take it back. Sure, I can probably write some interesting scenes around those two scenarios, but neither has anything to do with the strippers… or the reason I’m telling this story.
3. The fewer characters, the better. When I’m limited by word count, I can’t have a huge cast of characters parading on stage. So you’re not likely to see the heroine’s mom, dad, boss, sister, brother, cousin, night school teacher, or doorman. You will, however, get to know the heroine very well. And since I write romance, you’ll get to know her hero, too. But let’s go back to our stripper scenario for a minute. The story may involve a group of men, but that doesn’t mean they’re all equally as important. I have to decide who the hero is (and there could be more than one), and then limit the heroine’s interactions to dealing specifically with him, so she’s as focused on her hero as the reader will be. She can still have a bit of fun with the other men if she chooses, but they’ll always be in the background. Center stage belongs to the hero and the heroine. No one else.
4. Limited point of view. I’m partial to first person point of view, myself. I love seeing the world through one person’s eyes. But even if I’m writing in third person, that doesn’t mean I can’t limit my point of view. You’ll definitely get the heroine’s. You may get the hero’s. But that’s it.
5. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. That’s just what it sounds like: get in, do what needs to be done, and get out. Once the event is finished, so is the story. I’m probably not going to show you that the heroine wakes up with the world’s worst hangover the next day. Or that her best friend has made off with everyone’s jewelry and wallets while the guests were passed out. Although that could set off an interesting subplot in a novel, the short story really is all about one event. I can’t say this enough. When the stripper orgy is over, so is the story.
How do you feel about short stories? Have you noticed any common elements in the short stories you’ve enjoyed?
Lacey’s most recent short story releases December 2nd at Ellora’s Cave: Voices in the Dark
Maddie’s coworkers have no idea that she gets off on calling random men, whispering raunchy fantasies in their ears and hearing them orgasm at the sound of her voice. Her fetish is fun, daring and most importantly, safe. That’s paramount for a transplanted Texan now living in New York.
Sex with strangers is risky. Phone sex is totally anonymous. Until Maddie calls a coworker by mistake. And when Adrian recognizes her voice, he turns her safe little fetish into a dangerous game. One that Maddie can’t possibly win.
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