I’m writing four blog posts for yeah write, at under 500 words each, and I hope to squeeze in to these 2000 words a version of everything I know about writing. In order to do this, I’m going to discuss how I came to write a story called “Miracle.”
If you’ve read Ron Carlson’s excellent little craft book, Ron Carlson Writes a Story, you know where I’ve gotten the idea to do this. If you haven’t, and you’re someone who’s interested in writing, it is very much worth your time.
I came to writing—and reading—late, at the age of eighteen, and ever since then, I’ve read short stories. I often work with student writers, however, who, while very interested in writing, have spent their entire lives reading—and often writing—novels.
There are myriad differences between these two forms. Among them: In a short story, there typically won’t be a scene that is there merely to establish who a character is. Instead, character must be developed via scenes in which there is drama, something at stake.
Also: In a short story, every little thing matters. Every detail must resonate. Every line of dialogue should accomplish more than one thing.*
“Miracle” begins with summarized dialogue. I’ve realized over the years that I summarize a lot of dialogue, especially if it isn’t doing more than one thing in the context of the story. I’ve found it’s also a way some of my narrators exercise control over the narratives they’re telling.
After the narrator of “Miracle” receives that phone call, he leaps ahead in time: Later, he will show me the bruise—a tire-wide swath of mottled purple and pale green—streaked up the inside of his thigh and the middle of his chest, where his own car ran him over.
I hadn’t known when I sat down to write that I was going to move into the future tense, but that’s what I did. So now I had a beginning—that received phone call—and something happening much later in the time, way down the road, even if I wasn’t sure what might bridge those two events.
*I am indebted here to William Sloane’s The Craft of Writing, as it’s referenced in Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction.
Writing for this week’s challenge? Notes from Erica M
For those of you stopping by for the first time or the first time in a long time: we have two concurrent events happening each week for the month of July—our regular weekly writing challenge for which we ask writers to submit 500 words or so toward a personal essay or traditional blog anecdote and our 2013 summer series following along with ProBlogger’s 31 days to build a better blog. Many thanks to Chad Simpson for opening this week’s challenge. Any comments left below will go directly to his email, and please keep in mind Chad has no technical knowledge of yeah write. If you have writing related questions or comments, leave them on this post. If you have technical “I’m having submission issues” questions, email us, your yeah write editors.
The yeah write invitational will open with 30 or more entries on the challenge grid and the jury prize winner comes with an award: the three books from this series
Besides being Erica M’s main blog crush since 2006, Chad Simpson has a new book “Tell Everyone I Said Hi” available on Amazon and from the University of Iowa Press. It’s a wonderful book of short stories I didn’t mean to read in one night and, once you pick up a copy, I recommend you devour it more slowly than I did. For the jury prize winner, we’ll give away one copy of Chad’s book as well as the Pressfield and Carlson books referenced in Chad’s series. Three good books for one good reader.
Odds, ends, reminders
- Your post can be no longer than 600 words
- Your post can be dated no earlier than Sunday, July 21, the day the yeah write #119 badges were officially posted
- The grid is open from Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. to Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.
- It is limited to 50 bloggers
- Voting will take place Thursday from midnight to 10:00 p.m. US eastern
- The winners’ post will be published at noon on Friday
- The weekend moonshine grid will open Friday around 6 p.m. and close Monday by 12:01 a.m.
- No self-promotional posts are allowed on the yeah write grid, including those containing links to other blog events and Internet contests
- Combining your yeah write post with other blog events meant to maximize your exposure and minimize your effort is a no-no
Questions and comments for our guest editor below, questions and comments for yeah write editors: email us here. Yeah write #119 weekly writing challenge is open for submissions…