Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Differences Between a Short Story and a Novel #4

Difference #4: Subplots

Usually the short story can’t support a subplot. If there is too much going on, the reader will find it hard going. The piece generally concerns one basic storyline, one or two themes at the most and no more than two or three characters.

In a novel, subplots give the story a new dimension. They provide layers, texture, complications, back story and crank up the tension. But at the same time they need to run parallel and drive the main conflict.
Introducing new characters deepens the story and keeps the reader interested. Also, they show hidden impulses behind actions of the major characters. But they must happen for a reason and move the story forward. Also be sure to connect and relate them to your main plot. Eventually they have to be resolved by the end of the story.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Differences Between A Short Story and a Novel #3

Difference #3: Plot

Short stories can get away with a slice of life that resolves quickly. They usually focus on one aspect of a character’s life.

In a novel, the difference lies in the size of the problem and, usually, in the number of characters. The issues are generally deeper and can expand in more than one direction.

Novel readers get hooked on a plot that keeps them awake until the small hours. It’s a good idea to introduce the story early on with a sense of plot that grows organically out of character. It’s a kind of blueprint for constructing a gripping sequence of events. Think of it as the glue that holds the story together. It should be flexible enough not to constrain and structured enough to make it a page-turning tale. A character wants something (even if he/she won’t admit it), followed by a series of linked events that get in the way. Event A must cause Event B and so on all the way to Event Z at the end. There should be rising action as the stakes get higher. However, the line doesn’t have to be straight. It can grow in zig-zag fashion. After a particular intense action, you could have a quieter event.

All plots should have a beginning and an ending. In the beginning your character has a goal. In the middle, the character tries to reach that goal. In the end, there must be a sense of resolution, of life changing or returning to some sort of normality.

I’ll cover sub-plots later.

Remember: Create a drama, not a melodrama!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Differences Between a Short Story and a Novel # 2

Difference # 2: Pacing

Pacing controls the speed and rhythm in your narrative. It's a literary technique that determines the story's appeal. In a novel, you're going to have to convince your reader to keep going for longer. Pacing is affected by the number of plot events in  your story (quickening the pace), as well as the level of detail (slowing the pace). Variation and balance is the key

How well you handle the pacing is determined by the complexity and sustainability of your main idea. You can control the pace through mix up, which means using short sentences and active verbs in intense action scenes, and details for slower-paced scenes. Writers use pace by choosing the exact words. In short, pacing is moving a story forward with a certain speed.

Elements of Pacing

Let us see a few important pacing elements:
  • Action – An action scene dramatizes the significant events of the story and shows what happens in a story.
  • Cliffhanger – When the end of a chapter or scene is left hanging, naturally the pace picks up, because readers would turn the pages to see what happens next.
  • Dialogue – A rapid fire dialogue with less information is captivating, swift and invigorates scenes.
  • Word Choice – The language itself is a means of pacing, like using concrete words, active voice and sensory information.
If you're a short story writer, pace is important but easier to regulate. Lucky you!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Differences Between a Short Story and a Novel #1

My first in a series of differences between a short story and a novel.

A teacher once told her class that a novel is just a short story, only longer. Length is true, but there is so much more.

I found this out the hard way. I began a short story 24 years ago and gradually developed it into a novel by sheer perseverance.  Here's what I discovered:

Overall difference:
  • A novel is a journey, not only for the characters, but for the writer and the reader.
  • A short story is an intense experience--something to linger over and savor.
Difference One: Length

A novel is a larger scale project that takes a lot more stamina than a short story. I takes so long to write that you must have a complex and sustainable idea. You have to be ready for the long haul and to commit yourself to a large amount of writing time.

It's easy to lose track of your writing,  I am not an outline keeper. For me, it would kill the muse. I discovered the story by writing it. At least I had completed the short story. Novel development is complicated. Some novelists keep chapter summaries in a spreadsheet or use software to organize chapters and scenes. I  plodded forward by the seat of my pants. Wrote chapters out of sequence and fitted them in as I went along. Difficult to manage, perhaps, but my right brain insists on chaos. I envy writers who can outline, develop a synopsis, create characters and scenes before even beginning the novel. Would I write another novel in the same fashion?  Absolutely!

There are as many different novel methods as there are writers. I had only a vague idea of what would happen in the story until I finished it. But I had a Marine with PTSD, his dog, and the dialogue between them. The plot developed from there.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Best of the Net

My story, "Ronald's Sister," has been nominated for Best of the Net by Cold Creek Review.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

New fiction in the 4-10-17 issue of The New Yorker by Emma Cline

Emma Cline (author of The Girls, The New York Times Best Seller and named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post) has written a fine short story, "Northeast Regional," appearing in the April 10, 2017 edition of The New Yorker.

The piece grips the reader with the clipped first sentence, "Close to five hours on the train."

A remote father is called to his son's college where there is reported ''trouble." All moves along seamlessly, with tension, until the explosive dialogue near the end. I did not see it coming. Super!

The writing rolls along at a smooth pace, not a word out of order. The kid's bad doings are left off stage, we are sparred the torrid details.

The insolent kid is contrasted by his fragile, sniveling girl friend, bullied by the boy's father. A non-participating father for the most part, who is both weak and critical. Not to mention a pill-popper.

There is a one-paragraph sex scene that works.

No one in this piece is likable, yet sympathetic.

I don't want to spoil the plot, so I am intentionally leaving you wanting to read "Northeast Regional."

Thursday, April 6, 2017

My Latest Published Story

Cold Creek Review has published my story, "Ronald's Sister, in its first issue. You can read it here:


Monday, March 27, 2017

4321 by Paul Auster

Has anyone read Paul Auster's 4321? I am struggling through it.

I'm a big fan of Auster's works, having read New York Trilogy, Hand to Mouth, Sunset Park, Oracle Night, The Book of Illusions, and Invisible. 

In 4321, (866  pages) there are four Archie Fergusons, all sharing the same paternal grandfather. Each Archie has his own story. Yet, they are the same boy in separate circumstances and plots.

The novel is heavy on the inner world of  Archie, written in narrative, short on dialogue. Manhattan and New Jersey provide backgrounds. Themes of identity, fate and ambition play throughout, along with gender, race, and class.

I found myself forgetting which Archie I was following. They are alike but in different, complicated and detailed circumstances. And that's what I found frustrating at times, trying to keep each Archie separate. But it kept me thinking, way into the night. And I'm still reading on.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Literary Fiction Book Club


I'm back to my blogger page after a hiatus of almost two years. This time I'd like to concentrate on literary fiction, which I mentioned briefly in my previous post dated November 24, 2013. In fact, I'd like to turn my blog into a literary fiction book club.

When I think of literary fiction, I envision language that does not rely on convention, but on the process of discovery. Generally, literary work offers the reader a deeper look into the human experience through elements such as style, character development, metaphors, phrasing, and the use of sensory detail. In its broadest sense, literary fiction attempts to communicate concepts or feelings that transcend the basic structural elements of story. A primary difference between mainstream and literary fiction is that mainstream tends to have a stronger emphasis on plot rather than on character. That doesn't mean literary fiction lacks plot or narrative movement. Beautiful writing needs glue to hold it together.

Take Moby Dick, for example. More than an entertaining story about ships at sea, it explores layers upon layers of symbolic, psychological and metaphysical themes. Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and her other works run deep into the theater-of-the-mind. Often there is a moral dilemma played out through all the senses.

A literary story can be quite simple, but it will impact the reader with a feeling, maybe joy, maybe surprise, maybe anguish or loss. Still, something has to happen plot-wise to make these feelings palpable.

Hardly predictable, literary stories unfold the human drama in a probing, authentic voice. The focus is in the characters' psychology, and revelations on the human experience.

Besides the hundred stories listed on my new, updated website, it might be fun to discuss All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and discuss whether we consider this literary fiction, mainstream or a combination of both.  I have just started it.

Talk later!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Point of View - Illusion

Toni Morrison is so much in the news these days, especially with her new book coming out. Here's a quote of hers that's worth noting:

There should be the illusion that it's the character's point of view, when in fact it isn't; it's really the narrator who is there but who doesn't make herself known in that role. What I really want is the intimacy in which the reader is under the impression that he isn't reading this; that he is participating as he goes along.

Best Submission Rejection Ever

"Catherine, at this time, we don't handle projects with swearing in them."