Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transformation in the Short Story

I once listened to a sermon on the radio. It was a long drive in a rural area in Ghana and we couldn't pick up anything other station. It was an insightful sermon, quite practical in fact and it has stuck with me. The man was speaking about politics and warning people that they should not be fooled by politicians' last-ditch attempts to buy their votes with token gifts like a bag of flour or a bicycle. He said that they should review how the politician has impacted their lives; he cautioned the audience repeatedly that an official seeking reelection should be able to show how he has moved them from "your here to your there."

I believe that the sermon stuck with me in part because at the time I was reading Rust Hills' book, "Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular" and he was suggesting the same thing. Not about politicians, of course, but that in your short story, your main character must be moved, changed, affected somehow or the story is a failure.

I got into a discussion about this with a fourth grader last week when I did a presentation to his class on writing.

"Maybe it's just a story about the fact that the person doesn't change," he suggested.

"Maybe no one will read it," I replied.

Writing short stories presents unique challenges to the author. So much to convey and so little time. I love writing short stories and I am working to hone my skills in this area through practice, feedback and research. This is the first of a few tidbits that I will share over the next few posts. I'm not claiming to be an expert, feel free to counter my tidbits, I am always happy to learn!


Charles Gramlich said...

I enjoy short stories too. Enjoy writing and reading them. One great thing about stories is that they can try all sorts of experiments, and if they don't work, then neither the writer nor the reader has invested a huge chunk of time. Although it takes me quite a while to write a short story myself.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to your future posts. I like to write short stories, but have so much to learn.