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Tips to Enrich Your Short Fiction

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The Library Foundation's Writer-In-Residence presented this slide share at one of his Short Story Workshops held at the Library.

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Tips to Enrich Your Short Fiction

  1. 1. Short Story Workshop On Your Way toward Enriching Your Short Fiction From the Library Foundation’s Writer-In-Residence
  2. 2. Intro • In such condensed time as one afternoon, we will go to the heart of how to possibly improve your craft. • Condensing much material in my advanced fiction workshop, but not leaving out the most significant items. • You want to be as informed a writer as possible in order to implement possibilities as expertly as possible in your stories. • Everyone likely has a short fiction writer he or she latches onto. • A few exercises will put us in touch with content here. • I will share some curious “trade gems” that might morph into a new kind of thinking on your part.
  3. 3. Starting Block: “My Jockey” • Let’s start by reading together a short-short story, “My Jockey,” by Lucia Berlin. • In crafting her short story, “My Jockey,” what is Lucia Berlin communicating to us about her art, her craft…as it pertains to just this one story? • What are you “receiving” as a writer? What are things occurring in the story that speak to you AS A WRITER?
  4. 4. Smile: it’s all in Your Characters Thoughts on that great element called…Characterization • Characters are typically the first thing remembered when a story is over. • Characters always have roles. • Characterization must differ among characters. • Characters should always generate action in the storyline. Characters drive plot or narrative progression. They drive sources of tension, drama, comedy.
  5. 5. Smile…It’s Your Characters! 3 Dependencies of Character Development • Rhythm of characters’ speech, or their ability to speak • The need for a character(s) to move the narrative…to “push” it. • To distinguish among characters’ individual nuances, traits, behavior, issues, goals, positioning, desires, and obstacles.
  6. 6. Huh? Whadya Say? …here’s DIALOGUE Speak Up! • Dialogue is an element and a virtual art form. It is not required in a short story, although it is typically depended upon. • The real impetus that Dialogue provides directly involves Characterization. Dialogue ultimately enhances Characterization • Done well, Dialogue is the actual “illusion” of conversation. It is uniquely crafted to provide “insight” into a conversation.
  7. 7. Creating an Echo Secondary Patterns in Fiction -- Important that you create one to two “recurring details” or recurring moments or recurring -- The “thing” is something readers remember; it helps story resonate. -- Plant (specifically) one detail early. Utilize it throughout the story. -- Pattern: the reader locks into the emphasis on and essence of detail. -- This detail(s) forms a “secondary pattern.”
  8. 8. A Big Secret… revealed • What’s an ‘ingredient’ – a consideration – that successful short stories have? Hint: again, it has to do a lot with characterization. ______________ • Ahh…here is one ingredient, or consideration that you can now implement. It is the evocation of CONTRAST. • Think about ways you can invent & implement “contrasts” in how you present 1) a character(s); 2) a situation(s) or moment; 3) a detail or secondary pattern. Examples abound in the world of fiction. • The best fiction – definitely the best short stories – are well-endowed with significant contrasts of one order or another.
  9. 9. Recommended Focused Readings (for expert use of short fiction elements, techniques & moments) Read for Dialogue: • Grace Paley (any of her stories) • George Saunders (any of his stories) • Raymond Carver (any of his stories) Read for Time / Time Shifts/ Manipulating Time and Place • Jhumpa Lahiri (Unaccustomed Earth) • Claire Vaye Watkins (Battleborn) • Bob Shacochis (Easy in the Islands and The Next New World)
  10. 10. Readings (continued) Read for Characterization • Antonya Nelson (any of her many books of short stories or novellas) • Dan Chaon (Stay Awake: Stories) • Pam Houston (Cowboys are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat) Read for Risk-taking Narrative ploys • Anthony Marra (The Tsar of Love and Techno) • Karen Russell (Vampires in the Lemon Grove) • Charles Baxter (There’s Something I Want You to Do)
  11. 11. Readings (continued) Read for “Gutsy” yet Eloquent Bluntness • Thom Jones (his three books of short stories) • Mary Gaitskill (Bad Behavior: Stories) • Edward P. Jones (Lost in the City: Stories) • Junot Diaz (Drown) Read for Poetic Quality within the Short Story form: • Amy Hempel • Lucia Berlin * Denis Johnson * Lydia Davis
  12. 12. Read Continually & Never Stop Observing: • Alice Munro (her selected stories, or any of her collections) • Stephen King • Flannery O’Connor • Andre Dubus (our “American Chekhov”) • & pay attention to our wide array of international writers: Francesca Marciano (Italy); Haruki Murakami (Japan); Edna O’Brien (Ireland); Maxim Biller (Germany); Margaret Atwood (Canada); Magda Szabo (Hungary)
  13. 13. Read Continually & Never Stop Observing: • Alice Munro (her selected stories, or any of her collections) • Stephen King • Flannery O’Connor • Andre Dubus (our “American Chekhov”) • & pay attention to our wide array of international writers: Francesca Marciano (Italy); Haruki Murakami (Japan); Edna O’Brien (Ireland); Maxim Biller (Germany); Margaret Atwood (Canada); Magda Szabo (Hungary)
  14. 14. Learn more about our Writer-In-Residence program.

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