Published on March 14, 2014
WRITING THE SHORT STORY Hints and Tips
Narrative Writing Diamond
A Short Story Should Include . . . • setting details woven into the text • development of at least one character through the character‟s words, thoughts, and actions and through the words of other characters and/or the writer • a problem/conflict which is developed as the story(plot) progresses • a resolution of that problem/conflict (climax) • a conclusion (what happens after climax) • snapshots (things for the reader to visualize) • thought shots (characters‟ thoughts) • dialogue (optional)
Creating Your Setting • Story setting refers to the location or locations in which your story takes place. • Does your story take place in the city, town, mountains, island, underground, undersea, forest, sp ace station, or on another world. • Does their adventure take them through rural towns or an urban industrial city or a secret labyrinth? • If it‟s in the city, is it in an upscale neighborhood or the ghetto? • Your setting is also influenced by the year in which the story takes place (Past, Present, or Future). • Just be sure to remember that the location/setting in which your story takes place in should also affect the way in which your character and the characters he/she meets behave.
Writing the Five Senses • Description in Creative Writing important in creative writing. You are trying to create a „world‟ in the story so that they can answer the question: „What is this place like?‟ • Why Sensory Detail is Important • Information about what things we might encounter with our senses is vital in creative writing. This kind of detail is what brings a scene alive for the reader. Imagine reading a story in which nothing is said about what a setting or character looks like. Reading creates a picture in the reader‟s mind, and it‟s difficult to visualize something when we don‟t know what we‟re meant to be seeing. • Remembering to Use All Five Senses • When we think of detail, we tend to imagine first what a thing or place looks like. Your reader needs that information, too. But remember that we have five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch. • All of these can come into a description, and each makes the thing you are describing seem more real to the reader.
Example of Setting: I stepped into the room and coughed at the musty, mildewy smell that felt like it was already clogging my throat. I looked around. The yellow paint was peeling off the walls in strips and bubbles, exposing the greyish wall beneath. The battered, deep brown wood floors were stained in several places with rust-coloured smears. They looked like old blood. Dust webs floated in the air, stirred by the faint breeze I could feel coming in the door behind me. They were attached to the ceiling and fixtures somewhere in the shadows above my head. Save for the groans of the floorboards beneath my feet, there was no sound. It was like the air smothered sounds and choked the breeze. I saw another door on the other side of the room, cracked open a few inches, but I couldn‟t see what was beyond it, or hear if anyone was there. I felt another faint stir of air, this time from that second door, and there was the strong smell of mice. What is it about this passage that helps us to get a sense of “What this place is like”?
Story Critical Characters, Settings, Objects Activity: • In every story there are certain people, places, and things that are especially important. These are called story critical characters, settings, objects. Authors highlight these story critical characters, settings, and objects by stopping and taking time to describe these. Read each story plan below. Think about the characters, settings, and objects that would be most interesting to the reader. • Underline story critical characters in RED, settings in BLUE, and objects in GREEN. On the lines below each plan, list the character/setting/ and or object that will later be described in an elaborative segment.
Creating Character – The Pirate • When you elaborate, you STOP THE ACTION and observe. • Use the five senses! • Your description should make the reader feel as though he or she is right there with the main character. • Use specific rather than general details. • Remember that sentence variety is important! • Write an ELABORATIVE SEGMENT of the character below. Tell specifically what she/he looked like (clothing, features, size), and how he/she behaved. Do NOT write a grocery list. Use interesting words and make it entertaining! The pirate stood before me.
Before we begin – specific and general detail… She wore a really pretty fancy cape. A cape of purple velvet trimmed in soft white fur covered her shoulders. The dog had a luxurious reddish coat, long silky ears, and alert black eyes. It was a nice, awesome dog that looked so cute. The field was covered in tall golden grass and dotted with red and blue wildflowers. The view across the big field was very beautiful and nice. The cake looked really good and delicious to eat. The double chocolate cake dripped in thick white frosting. A cute little bird perched there on the brown branch of the tree. A small green bird with bluish wings and a delicate yellow beak perched on the branch.
Creating Character – The Pirate • Write an ELABORATIVE SEGMENT of the character below. Tell specifically what she/he looked like (clothing, features, size), and how he/she behaved. Do NOT write a grocery list. Use interesting words and make it entertaining! The pirate stood before me.
Possible Detail Generating Questions: • What kind/colour of hair/eyes/nose/mouth did he/she have? • What was his/her height/weight? (no number words - compare!) • What kind of scars or other distinguishing marks did he/she have? • What was she/he wearing? (clothing/jewellery) • What was she/he carrying/holding? • What kind of expression was on his/her face? • How did he/she move? • And . . . any others that come to mind!
Show don‟t Tell… • Read each story segment on the handout you have been given. • If the author SHOWS the character‟s feelings, write an “S” in the blank. • If the author just TELLS the character‟s feelings, write a “T” in the blank. • For Example: • T Joey was really scared. • S Annabelle felt a smile spread across her face. Her heart seemed to leap in her chest and she clapped her hands together in delight.
Beginning One way to make your writing more interesting and entertaining is by starting off with a great, attention grabbing beginning! On the next slide are some techniques authors use to begin their stories:
1.) AN ACTION -Put your main character in your setting doing something interesting and relevant to the story. Ask: What would you do? ex. Joey ran full steam ahead across the corral and jumped on the back of the wild stallion! 2.) DIALOGUE -Have your main character say something. Ask: What might you say or exclaim? ex. “I can‟t wait to see the Grand Canyon!” I shouted. 3.) A THOUGHT OR QUESTION -Show the main character‟s thoughts, or raise a story question. Ask: What would you wonder or worry? ex. I wondered if we‟d make it out alive. 4.) A SOUND -Grab the reader‟s attention through the use of a sound. Ask: What might you hear? ex. BOOM! Jack flinched as the thunder and lightning rolled in over the hills.
Beginning • Begin your story as close to the main event as possible. • For example, if it‟s a story about being marooned on a tropical island, don‟t begin the story two weeks before you leave, reading through travel brochures. • Begin on or near the island. If you‟re writing about a day at the beach, don‟t begin waking up, getting dressed, and having breakfast--begin at the beach! • Get right into the action so that you don‟t lose your reader! • Also, since it is very difficult to weave many characters throughout the story, a good strategy is to have your main character start off alone.
Climactic Moment • The climax is the result of the crisis. It is the high point of the story for the reader. Frequently, it is the moment of the highest interest and greatest emotion. The point at which the outcome of the conflict can be predicted. • Which Climactic Moment works best: Activity
Ending • Read this story ending. • Underline the main character‟s memories of the main event in BLUE. • Underline the main character‟s feelings about the main event in RED. • Underline a decision that the main character made in BLACK. • Underline the main character‟s hope or wish in GREEN. Tim leaned back against the building and heaved a sigh of relief. It had been close, that’s for sure. When he shut his eyes he could still see the huge, slobbering dog snarling and snapping at him. He knew that if he ever wanted to explore the junkyard again, he’d check first to see if the dog was there. And he’d come armed with some dog biscuits or a very big bone! THINK ABOUT IT: • What do you think this story was about? • Use this ending to summarise what probably took place in the story!
Snapshots: • Snapshot: A picture in words; you show details to readers so they can see the entire scene. • Instructions: Read the following passage. Obviously in each of the paragraphs, the writer is “telling” rather than “showing” the scene. Rewrite one of the passages in your own words so that you are creating a snapshot in the mind of the reader. • Passages: 1 Paul walked into the large, scary room. He stopped; his breath seemed to escape him. He saw the entire scene. It was filled with death and destruction. It was a haunted house, no doubt. 2 The policeman knew trouble was awaiting him. He kicked open the door and burst into the room. He saw a bunch of people waiting behind the door and they were surprised. He arrested all of them. 3 Janie‟s room was just the way she had pictured it. When Susie walked into her best friend‟s room she saw a lot of neat stuff. It was just like her friend.
Thoughtshot: • A thoughtshot is a concrete way to reveal to the reader what a character is thinking. It can be an important way to reveal personality, motivation, and even information to the reader. It serves to make the actors in a story or personal narrative realistic by showing what they are thinking. It is yet another way to “show, don‟t tell.”
Thoughtshot: I walked into the room and began to feel terrible. All I could think about was how I had not come to visit her enough when she was sick. I went back into the bedroom area to get an old box of books. • How could you change this example to show rather than tell?
Dialogue: • Use quotation marks to show the exact words of a character. • New speaker means new paragraph. • Quotation marks stop when the direct words stop. They start up again when the direct quote begins again. • Punctuation goes inside the quotation marks in dialogue. • Don‟t use quotation marks with indirect quotes.
Dialogue: • Nothing marks a beginning writer faster than improperly punctuated dialogue. Learn these rules, and you'll avoid obvious mistakes: 1. Use a comma between the dialogue and the tag line (the words used to identify the speaker: "he said/she said"): • "I would like to go to the beach this weekend," she told him as they left the apartment. 2. Punctuation marks go inside the quotation marks. • "I don't want any stupid cake," says the guy who goes to Europe and the Middle East. "Where's the champagne?" he says, and laughs. 3. In the next example, the question mark goes outside the quotation marks because it is not part of the material being quoted: • Did he say, "We should all go to the movies"? • Also note that the sentence ends with only one mark of punctuation: the question mark.
Dialogue Cont: 4. When a tag line interrupts a sentence, it should be set off by commas. Note that the first letter of the second half of the sentence is in lower case, as in this example from Flannery O'Connor's "Greenleaf": • "That is," Wesley said, "that neither you nor me is her boy...“ 5. To signal a quotation within a quotation, use single quotes: • "Have you read 'Hills Like White Elephants' yet?" he asked her. 6. For interior dialogue, italics are appropriate, just be consistent. • If a quotation spills out over more than one paragraph, don't use end quotes at the close of the first paragraph. Use them only when a character is done speaking.
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