Short story writing p1

READERSVOICE.COM aims to sample from a few interesting oldish books. Most of them are out of print and some are even forgotten. This issue features Write from the Beginning, a book on how to write short stories, by Eileen Molver, Marie Thorpe, and Janet Nicholson. (Published 1990, for The Writing School, Victoria.) It’s well worth tracking down. Here are a couple of samples from the book.

The authors tell the difference between an incident and a short story:

 Beginner writers sometimes have difficulty in differentiating between an incident and a short story. We have said that a short story is a complete episode. An incident, on the other hand, is an occurrence without any follow through. It may well be a dramatic or interesting occurrence, but unless it causes a change in the character involved, enabling him or her to resolve a problem or achieve a purpose, it remains merely an incident.

An incident that may have happened to you, or a friend, can be a springboard that you can use to expand into a short story, but on its own simply remains an open-ended circumstance.

If a character slips in the street and breaks an arm, is taken to hospital, has his arm set, is discharged and goes home, no matter how much description you may include of the hospital, the character’s thoughts, the nurses, and the hospital routine, this is still only an incident.

If you character breaks an arm, is taken to hospital, is treated by his ex girlfriend from whom he parted because they had arguments about her shifts and dedication to her work; if seeing her under these circumstances he suddenly realises that people like her are doing a vital and important job, admits his mistake and asks her if they can try again – you have a short story, a complete tale containing plot, values, a M.C. [main character] who experiences an emotional change, and a hopeful, credible ending.

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