So you have a story. You’re excited having finished but a bit hesitant on having to look back. Somehow you muster the courage and reread your once esteemed draft, then what happens? Your story has the framework of your intention but it feels hollow, it is missing an important density and vitality. How do you proceed from this frustrating position?
I’m writing a short story to be debuted next weekend. I’ve a finished first draft and I’ve gone through making suggestions for the draft. What I found was the piece was lacking aggressively in the climax and it overall was rather skeletal and lacking. Some of this is expected within the short story medium, I suspect. Short story writers only have between 1,000 – 10,000 words. 10,000 is being gracious though, a considerable amount of publishers only take short stories from the 1,000 to 7,000 range. This constraint is what makes or breaks a short story writer.
The First Problem – Excessive Detail
I know a few writers who insist on providing each detail with no regard to importance. There are writers, even professionals, who take kindly to this sort of meandering writing. With only 7,000 words to use however, every word is precious. When you develop your plot stick to the vital elements. The who, what, when, where and why. When you understand these elements you can build up relations to all of them. Maybe your main character is from a desert and the story takes place in a desert. In what ways does your character embody the place he’s born? Creative and/or complex associations of these essentials will provide a way to add detail to your prose without adding unnecessary detail.
The Second Problem – Lack of Climax
The climax is your backbone, the structure around this backbone is your plot. In a traditional sense, your plot should build-up to your climax and have a resolution. What I’ve seen many beginning writers trying to rebel from this traditional sense of plot to something “experimental”. While much can be said on merit of experimental stories when done correctly, a novice writer (of which I consider myself a part of) should have an understanding as stated above.
Building up a climax is easier than most make it out to be though. Simply, the reader must percieve each plot element as colliding with one another. It’s important to note the word “collide”. I may just agree with classic tragedians in this aspect but there must be stake in a climax: a life, one’s right to live, etc.
Much more could be said on this topic and I do, in fact intend to voice all my thoughts on writing at some point. But for brevity’s sake I’ll stop here. This writing tip was suggested by Melissa Rose Rogers. If you would be interested in seeing a Writings By Ender writing course, let me know (I’ve some rough outlines for a course). If you have a writing tip you wish generic writing tips covered, feel free to send them to me!