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Mastering the Short Story

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Xaysai, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. Xaysai

    Xaysai Inkling

    So I've been tinkering with a lot of sub 1k word stories lately because i find them fun and easy to write and I think they are a great place to find my pace, voice and style.

    However, I get to the end of them and ask myself the question: "What's the point of the story?"

    For instance, I could write a great 1k short story about a fight between two people, but at the end, one wins and one dies, and that's the end of the story. There is no point, no "aha!" factor, nothing clever.

    Personally, I find it boring because I want something PROFOUND to happen that I don't expect.

    But then when I try to give these stories a point, it always sounds cheesy, preachy, forced or manufactured.

    The short stories I enjoy reading: 1) have a twist, 2) are funny, or 3) are so beautifully written that I enjoy just reading the words.

    Does a 1k short story NEED a payoff at the end? Am I trying too hard? Am I not trying hard enough?
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    IMO, it absolutely needs a payoff at the end no matter how short. If not, what is the point of the story?
    Steerpike likes this.
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Yeah, I agree with Brian. If there's no payoff at the end, what you really have is a scene or a series of scenes, as opposed to a "story." The payoff doesn't have to be overt - it can be an internal transformation of the character, but there has to be something more than 'they fought and one of them died,' in my opinion.
  4. Amber

    Amber Scribe

    But a short story can also be really touching in its description of something simple, something of every day. I was really moved once by a conversation once between a special needs cab driver (as in, he helps people with needs to get around) and a severe case of dementia client. The words where so precise and described the fragility of the old men and the clumsy attempts of the cab drive to make him comfortable so good that it didn't need a big point or twist.
  5. Leif Notae

    Leif Notae Sage

    It sounds like what you have here is the ability to build some epic scenes. When you are thinking of flash fiction, you want to get into the heart of a story. Even the sample stuff I posted didn't really have a payoff, which makes it harder for people to enjoy it.

    You should sit down and sketch some stuff out. Go through a little bit of the story structure set up and see what you have. You never know when you can find that "payoff".
  6. Cursive

    Cursive Scribe

    I know what you mean Xaysai.

    In my opinion its the hardest part of writing. Its easy to string a bunch of actions together and make things happen in your story. but laying down a meaningful theme beneath all those plot elements is difficult. But i think that's where you have to start a story. Thematic content needs to be the foundation, and the plot and characters need to further the theme.

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