Posts Tagged ‘Sam Crane’

What is a Short Story?

I think that the idea of short stories is more ambiguous than a full novel. A short story is like one story arc of a complete novel, but it can stand on it’s own or be added to.

Start at the Beginning, Middle or End

In a short story you can start at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of any story that is running through your mind. A short story can be anywhere in anyone's timeline.

We can look at The Hero and how he has just started his quest, this is his first encounter with the trials that await him and how he overcomes this first trial. We can see The Hero, ragged and scarred, in the middle of his overarching quest. He has discovered that while he has been away from home, something happened. He makes the choice to go home, fix the issue, and get back on track before the big bad thing happens in his main story. We can also enter with The Hero, finally at the end. With what seems like years of hard work for him to get to this point making him clever, strong, and ready to finally face his greatest enemy.

Take for example, Harry Potter. In “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” We come in and see Harry sitting in the main hall enjoying his Halloween dinner with Ron. Hermione has just gone to the bathroom. Harry gets his quest when Professor Quarrel comes in, shouting about how there is a troll in the girls bathroom. From that moment until Ron and Harry defeat the terrifying troll we see a full story arc. From hope in saving their friend, to despair, and finally to triumph.

The thing with short stories is that they can be anywhere in anyone’s time line. That might make it a little harder to start any particular story (especially when you begin in the middle), but it’s not impossible. Bonus, you don’t have to see the entire thing out to the end. I am not saying that you should just leave The Hero or Harry in the middle of a battle and not finish the current arc though. Think of your short story as a mini-arc within the entire arc of what might have been The Hero’s or Harry’s novel.

A Compressed Novel

A short story still has all of the elements of a full novel, it’s just more compressed. We still see The Hero realize that he wants or needs to do something, we still see him struggle, and we still see him as either the triumphant victor or the unfortunate loser. We just see all of this happen in 1.5-30k words rather than 60-100k.

An example of a true short story would be Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote short stories about this detective in a London magazine. I hardly think that Mr. Doyle ever thought that his short stories would leave such an impression on his great city that when he killed off Sherlock, a fictional character, that people would go into mourning. They even went so far as wearing black bands on their arms in public. We only see snippets of Sherlock’s life, and yet he was mourned in the real world by real people. What I am trying to say, is that a short story need not be an enigma that writers should shy away from. They can be some of the most amazing stories ever told.

Write that Idea into a Short Story

Personally, I love short stories. They take the pressure off when you aren’t looking to write an entire novel. They make it easier to get those pesky little ideas that crop up while you’re writing out of your head. When I am writing and get a new idea that doesn’t really fit into my current novel, I write that idea into a short story. That way that idea is out and it leaves room for what I am working on at that moment.

In short, a short story is simply a mini novel, between 1,500 and 30,000 words. It has a story arc, from beginning to end and it can start in any place in a character’s life and story. Short stories can stand alone or be a part of a greater story. They can help the author with their creativity and they are something that I think all writers should dabble in at least a few times.


photo of Samantha CraneSam Crane lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two children. She is first and foremost a wife and mother, who has joyfully taken on the additional responsibility of homeschooling a preschooler. In her free time. Sam began reading when she was 4 years old but never really tried to write fiction until she was an adult. Encouraged by one of her good friends, she is now currently working on her first novel combining her love of the Fantasy with a bit of Horror.

Finding Your Motivation and Muse

Motivation and muse are tricky things. Sometimes they are discovered through careful planning or trial and error. Sometimes they hit you like a freight train with no intention of stopping.

When Your Muse is too Quiet

I have never been asked what my muse is or how I stay motivated to write, and frankly I am glad of this because both of mine are a little odd and confusing. While I have never been asked, I have heard other writers answer this question. The one that resonates with me the most is from Laurell K. Hamilton, one of our 2018 PPWC keynote speakers. She said that even on days when her muse is not with her and her motivation is lacking, she will sit down at the computer and write. It doesn’t even have to be her story, it can be complaining about not wanting to write.

I thought about this for a while after the conference, wondering why this particular technique works for her. Ms. Hamilton can release a book in a year, from first words to shelves so there must be something to this sort of stream of thought writing. What I came up with was that she was able to get all of her yuck out of the way so that the characters would speak to her again. Sometimes we just need to get all the yuck out of our heads, all of the I don’t want to do this anymore kind of things. I realize that it makes room for the story to grow without all of the issues we are having with writing getting in the way. I don’t mind saying that I have tried this, and it works! It isn’t my normal process, but it really does work.

The Process

First, find your time. Some people are morning people, some people are…well not. Some people are completely awake at night while others can’t make it past 9:30 pm. All of these times are great, but you need to find yours. Mine came one night while I was up with my sick son. He had just fallen asleep and I didn’t want to be woken up again in 20 minuets, so I started writing. At first it was only to keep myself awake, but then I realized that I was writing quickly and it seemed like the story was just flowing out of me. Here is the kicker, my time is around 3:00 am. Yeah, tell me about it.

Second, do you work well under pressure or under a zero stress environment? For me, I work better under pressure, so I found a group that does word sprints. I LOVE WORD SPRINTS! They light a fire under me like no one’s business. It’s the competition and the pressure of seeing how many words I can churn out in the allotted period of time. Now, this isn’t for everyone, other people need a stress free environment to write. They might need a clean desk, their tea, and the quiet. So you should figure out if you do better under pressure or with a calming pressure free environment. When you find that, run with it!Sometimes motivation will hit you like a freight train.

 

Last, find a good word processor that really speaks to you. Some people don’t need the frills, but I do. My word processor of choice is Scrivener. So many frills that it takes 2 hours to go through the tutorial! For me, this baby does it all, it allows me to write in the messy way that I do and rearrange my scenes as much as I like while still keeping track of everything. If frills isn’t your cup of tea, then that’s fine, there are so many word processors that will do the job with no extras. Everything from Notebook (you know…that simple note taking program that comes on all windows computers), to Microsoft Word, to browser word processors like Fighters Block or 4thewords. They’re all great, you just have to find the one that works for you.

So, in short, muse and motivation are tricky. Finding them is different for every person. But know this, when you do find yours, it will completely change your writing life. I found mine through a mix of surprise and trial and error. I know you’ll be able to find yours. In the mean time, try Ms. Hamilton’s process. Maybe it’ll clear the yuck enough for your muse and motivation to come through.


photo of Samantha Crane

Sam Crane lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and two children. She is first and foremost a wife and mother, who has joyfully taken on the additional responsibility of homeschooling a preschooler. In her free time. Sam began reading when she was 4 years old but never really tried to write fiction until she was an adult. Encouraged by one of her good friends, she is now currently working on her first novel combining her love of the Fantasy with a bit of Horror.