Friday, September 13, 2013

GUEST POST: Writing Short Fiction

I've had the great opportunity to meet Morgen through the FREE marketing she has given me. AND she is always happy to help new writers, so you just might want to contact her after reading her guest post on writing short fiction. 
 

Writing Short Fiction
 
Like people, and therefore characters, short stories come in all shapes and sizes. Ernest Hemingway’s ‘For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn’ is the most well-known example of a 6-worder. You can read others by guest authors at http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/flash-fiction-fridays/6-word-fffs.
While some condense a whole story, as Ernest did, others choose to illustrate just a scene, e.g. DJ Paterson’s ‘I stared into her lifeless eyes.’ We still get a sense of the story but it’s a moment in time, often the scenario of flash fiction. 

For less brevity, there are stories of 55, favoured in the US, and 60 words in the UK. Although these are micro fiction, we can still learn a lot about a character – you’d usually only have one or two in a piece that length – and their dilemma. 

Twitter fiction is also incredibly popular. You have a maximum of 140 characters to tell your story, and that includes spaces. This paragraph up to ‘spaces’ is 127. 

Flash fiction is usually up to 500 words (about an A4 typed sheet or two A4s handwritten), although some places (I used to) are more generous and allow up to 1,000 words. In short stories, every word counts, much more so than in a novel and when you’re only given a few hundred to play with, it certainly makes you more aware of getting your story across succinctly. 

There are three key elements to a story: character, plot and location. You’d usually need the first two in any length, even micro fiction, but you don’t have to have a location. Having a setting helps readers get a sense of place (literally) but unless it’s vital to the plot, you can leave it out. In fact if it’s well written, you may not even notice the lack of setting. On the other hand you can make the most of an unusual location, especially if it impacts on the character and plot, e.g. having someone in a country where they don’t speak the language. You have your dilemma before adding any further complications. 

Like any writing, see if you can find a new angle on a well-worn theme. Depending on who you listen to, there are only so many plots to choose from. After all, West Side Story is a modern retelling of Romeo & Juliet, and it’s still going strong on the London stage. 

I write a short story a day for my blog’s 5pm fiction slot and they are mostly less than 500 words (mainly because I have to write so frequently) and while many could go on to make longer pieces, they are generally self-contained snapshots of life, sometimes extreme life, but that’s the joy of fiction, you can do whatever you like to whoever you like… and it’s legal. 

Short fiction has always been the baby sister (or brother) to novels, and while novels will probably always be the main crowd pleaser, electronic devices such as the Kindle and mobile phones have brought new life to short stories and I for one, will keep doing what I love, keep writing my story a day, and see where technology, and our characters, take us next. 

Tell us about your writing. What’s the shortest piece you’ve ever written? 
 
Check out these books by Morgen Bailey on Amazon
 
Morgen Bailey

Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page).

She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog. Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has several short story collections and writer’s block workbooks available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
 
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To learn more about Morgen and see what she can do to help you with your own book marketing. Check out these sites:
 
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Reactions:

4 comments :

  1. Thank you very much for hosting me, Kathryn. It was a pleasure to be able to give something back.

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  2. Great post! I have included snippets or short fiction in some of my literary fiction books.

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  3. A useful summary of short writing lengths. Thank you.

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