Now that you’ve identified who your target is, and what they want to feel, it’s time to take a multi-part look at a delivery system.
Most e-pubs won’t take anything under 12k, and some won’t take anything under 15k, which makes my definition of a short story anything from 2.5-15k.
Publishing works on the assumption that stuff you buy needs to make money—and this is where you are going to get the bottom-line honest truth from me.
There are many ways to approach a short story. Some stories are perfect, some are weird, and some are thinly disguised personal therapy. But just because a story is beautiful, or important to you the author, doesn’t mean it’ll make money.
It’s important to know your goals, your market, what they want from you and the right focus.
Maybe your story ends up in the 10k range. That’s approximately 40 ms pages.
You’re writing a paranormal, you know all your buttons, but 60 percent is angelic warfare, 20 percent is description, and 20 percent carries the actual story.
Or maybe you’re writing mainstream fiction, but you love big sweeping generational epics. And instead of bringing your focus in, you expand it out to four generations of women who have breast cancer.
The idea needs to fit the size. That’s what makes focus important.
Does your story contain story events that connect with your reader’s emotions? When you look at them objectively, what emotions are the events in your story creating?
An example would be the opening “traveling scene”. The hero or heroine is driving, flying, walking or taking the period-appropriate form of transportation to get to where the story starts while reflecting back on what happened to get them to this point. What emotion does it create? Is there an emotion?
Maybe the heroine is looking at herself in the mirror, cataloging her hair, eyes and killer figure.
Is there an emotion there? How are you connecting with and fulfilling your reader’s needs? The reader needs to know what the heroine looks like, but a grocery list contributes nothing to your emotional structure.
Maybe the heroine is stabbing acne medication on a pimple. Maybe this one pimple is symbolic of just how much she hates herself and her looks, and what she really wants is to slice her face and die. Is it a paranormal? Her self-loathing works, not just to show your reader what she looks like, but also lays the groundwork for the hero to come in and love the woman she really is.
How many readers haven’t hated their looks at one time or another? Have you ever had a pimple or blemish you thought made you the ugliest person in the world?
Let’s take another look at that fiction.
Have you summarized huge chunks of information and feelings in your mainstream fiction just to condense it into a short story? The day Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer, she went home, cleaned the healthy food out of her refrigerator, doesn’t press my buttons as hard as watching Jane slam her front door, empty the contents of her vegetable crisper on the floor and kick squash at the wall.
You have to bring it in tight and hard, and to do that you need to know what happens in your story.
Do you really want all four generations of women in your mainstream fiction? Then you need a major story event that will get them all together, because 40 pages isn’t a lot of room.
Maybe a death or a birth, an anniversary or vacation. Story events are as individual as the person who writes them. And because there are so many people—less is more. You want to get them together and get out of the way, which means for this particular story you only need one major event.
Maybe your paranormal has a wounded lone wolf demon and a kick-ass heroine on her way to confront Lucifer. And maybe your story is about redemption and second chances? Then it’d make sense to show the war in Heaven (or at least the hero’s part, in a very short way, or maybe as a flashback) and after millennia—his encounter with the heroine.
You need two major story events to show the hero’s character arc (because of the buttons—redemption and second chances). The hero in war, and his encounter with the heroine (to start the change and redemption)
What major story events do you see in your story? Remembering this is a short story, how many are there? Do the events in your story connect with your reader on an emotional level, and what emotions do they elicit? Be honest. If you don't immediately feel emotions, it might be time to take another look.
Last edited by jodi henley; February 15th, 2011 at 12:22 PM.
Join today to gain full access to forum areas, pitch appointments, discounted workshops, chat room, autocritter, blog tour wizard and numerous other features! PREMIUM MEMBERSHIP ONLY $30/year! (Basic Membership with limited access is free. Sign up here.)