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Let's talk about short stories, blurbs and woodpeckers!

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Kasper Hviid, Oct 8, 2020.

  1. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    With the Is music your muse challenge and all, I thought it would be a good time to talk a bit about short stories.

    I like how short stories feels like a complete unexplored territory today. Nobody seem to know very much about them.

    A fun thing with fantasy and short stories is how you can throw together whatever world fits your story, without having to worry about it beeing perfect. So if you have a story about a bootmaker, you can let him live in a society where most citizens are snake men with no need for boots. With novels, on the other hand, the world building is so solid and heavy, since it has to fit into hundreds of pages and hopefully a longer series.

    One thing I have wondered about is how to write the right blurb. It irks me is that the blurb often spoils the discovery of just diving into a story without any idea where it may go. So I tend to underwrite.

    My first idea was to open with this pitch:

    It's like Conan the Barbarian, but on Mars!

    However, the story is not a classic Sword & Sorcery tale. Also, it is very likely that potential readers wont get the irony.

    Right now I'm here:

    Awaiting his execution, our hero finds himself trapped in a cell with a strange creature. With no way out, he must face a terrifying choice.

    Only 25 words, and doesn't even tell where the story takes place, or who the hero is. How long should a blurb for a short story be?

    Twitter now have a max length of 280 characters, (equals 140 words) but most twitter folks stick to shorter tweets. I mention this because I think of tweets as a way of guaging the attention span for online reading.

    I don't know who authors the blurb over at gutenberg.ca but I often find them really engaged and pitchy.

    Those stereotypical guys at the carnival, whatever they're called, those guys standing on a beer crate advertising their show, their enthutiasm frenzied, flowery and fake. I want my blurbs to be like that, this tongue-in-cheek upbeat voice. But with Trump sounding kinda like that, maybe this style is a dead duck.
  2. Edward Evjen

    Edward Evjen Dreamer

    If I may be your barker, I would blurb this:
    Awaiting his execution, an innocent(?) man is imprisoned with a martian woodpecker(?). With no way out, he will face a terrifying choice.
    Assuming he is innocent, I like the contrast of prison versus innocent. Using 'is imprisoned' is just a matter of omitting needless words. I don't know what the strange creature is, I used woodpecker because I can visualize it. What do you think; is this an improvement?

    I like short stories as a way of building trust. If I buy into the skill of an author using only two thousand words, I'll read a hundred thousand.

    On woodpeckers: their tongue begins at their 'nose' loops around and down the head and then runs down the beak.
  3. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    Barker ... I learned a new word today! Didn't know that thing about woodpeckers either. Natural selection is just bonkers!

    As nice as prison vs innocent is, my protagonist doesn't quite fit the bill. Good idea labeling the creature, though. I went for "creature" to add some mystery, but withholding too much information just makes the writing airy and unrelatable.

    I think I'll try expanding to a three-line paragraph. But it is a hard ballance, I don't want to get too close to wall-of-text territory.
  4. Hi Kasper: I hear you about the shorter form having a great freedom- So far I am the only (and very early) submission to that challenge - and it was a ton of fun to write for. The thing for me there was not the woodpeckers, or really mars, though I do go with the moon/stars... it was the music. I sort of just listened to it and let images form and drew some squiggly marks on a paper.. then wrote a story to those squiggly marks.

    I didn't make a blurb for mine, but it does make me thing about it. another thread was talking about pitches... and they are not super easy to make. Often the story is so involved and complicated.. that a pitch either does not get deep enough to pique interest, or its so descriptive the prospective reader is turned off-

    for my short: 2000 words story (I liked it so am already editing it to make it a bit better... but as submitted you can see at the challenge) I would give this blurb:

    "In the Silent City, ghosts of dead gods dance to the music of the young and mankind treads lightly to challenge moon and fate."
  5. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    Here's a real cheap trick for writing blurb: Watch Netflix! Not the movies themselves, but the one-paragraph blurb used to describe them. I figure there's some effort put into the writing of the single sentence which are supposted to sell an entire tv series. They usually use this structure: [protagonist] [situation/setting] [incident/opstacle]

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