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Monday, March 2, 2015

How I Write Short Stories--Part I

I get a lot of questions about how I write short stories, so I thought I'd take you through my process, step-by-step. Just so you know, I don't consider myself an expert. There are probably a million ways to approach a project like this. But perhaps walking through it with me will be interesting to some of you. I'm going to concentrate on how I write the Kiki Lowenstein Short Stories because I'd done so many of them.

Part I -- What's the point? Or what's the theme? What's my goal?

I like to have a purpose behind my stories. An idea or theme or goal. I think of this like the pole of a Maypole because it provides the structure for all that follows. I like to use holidays when writing the Kiki short stories. That works pretty well, because the holiday provides a natural launch date. Holidays give me an easy way to market my stories. And of course each holiday also has its own rituals, foods, celebratory activities, colors, and so on. These elements provide natural points of interest for the story.

I've decided that I want to write a story about St. Patrick's Day. I've been noodling that idea around, and I've been wondering, "What makes people lucky?"

With that in mind, I googled, "What makes people lucky?" and found several fascinating articles:

As you can see, Mr. Wiseman has identified four principles that define "lucky" people:

1. Taking advantage of chance opportunities.

2. Listening to hunches.

3. Expect good fortune.

4. Turn bad luck into good luck.

So now I have four new ideas that I can incorporate into my story. Any one of these or all of them might be useful.

I can move onto the next portion of my prep, creating conflict. To make a short story work, I need to create friction among my characters.

Any ideas on how I can do that?


Barbara said...

Hi Joanna!
Conflict...well Kiki's entire life lately has been conflict! First of all, who is the main character of this story? Is it Clancy or Kiki? We know Clancy's mom is a source of conflict for her. Perhaps you could delve into that more. Maybe Clancy is adopted? Maybe her mom is her older sister? Maybe her mom had a second family that she is just now telling Clancy about? Not sure what exactly you are looking for here. I am guessing that Clancy's story comes out through a class at "Time in a Bottle" and resolution will come because of the project. Perhaps St Patrick's day has always been unlucky for Clancy because that is when her father died or her husband left her or she lost a child. I am getting all these crazy ideas and am probably off base. I will be anxious to hear what you say!
Barb H

Joanna Slan said...

Barb, I love that idea! I didn't think about it being Clancy who's unlucky, but that's a terrific twist. And her name is so very Irish!