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Tips on writing short stories

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  • 28-03-2003 7:26pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 10,581 ✭✭✭✭


    What with the leaving cert edging ever closer, I thought I'd ask...

    While I've always been adept at the more argumentative type of essays, I am at a complete loss at writing short stories. Has anyone got any helpful tips, dos and don'ts or anything relevent to writing a good short story? If so, post 'em up here!


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,560 ✭✭✭Ivan


    Originally posted by NekkidBibleMan
    What with the leaving cert edging ever closer, I thought I'd ask...

    While I've always been adept at the more argumentative type of essays, I am at a complete loss at writing short stories. Has anyone got any helpful tips, dos and don'ts or anything relevent to writing a good short story? If so, post 'em up here!

    Well I was always told to write a sort of map on paper as to where I wanted the story to go, but I always found that rather inhibitive.

    Some of the best short stories I've ever written were just spontaneous although they were generally based on something to begin with.

    I find its best to pick some topic. Just write it down on a page and then try to come up with as many words which you would associate with this word. Without even thinking you've probably just given yourself an angle for your story and some decent vocabulary as well.


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,712 ✭✭✭Praetorian


    Writing essays was probably the only thing I was really good at in school. I actually used to write essays just for the fun of it! I must have 100 essays in my cupboard! For a long time I also wrote my stories spontaneously (Like Ivan ;)). It used to get me into trouble, because the "correct" way to write a story is to have a plan!

    I had an excellent English teacher in 6th year. He eventually convinced me that I should do out a plan, even if it was only very rough. If I was to have a bad day during the exam, the plan would at least show the examiner where I was trying to get too!

    Quick points:

    1- Brainstorm and roughly do out a plan. 5-8 minutes should be enough.

    2- Concentrate on making your first paragraph as perfect and as interesting as you can! Set the scene and use plenty of large adjectives!

    3- At this stage, your imagination will be able to help you put the main body of your essay together with ease!

    4- Once again concentrate hard, so that your final paragraph is as perfect as possible, watch out for spelling and grammatical errors! In my opinion, first and last impressions are the most important!

    5- You can breathe now.

    There are also some great tips here http://www.thewindjammer.com/smfs/newsletter/html/sameold.html

    I think I wrote the following essay about 6 years ago during 4th year (transition year). It’s by no means perfect, like it’s too long for the leaving cert. It’s one of the only short stories I have (on the computer). I must get around to typing the others, so I have them forever!

    You can find it here http://www.praetorian.digihive.com/breaking%20barriers.doc


  • Closed Accounts Posts: 5,025 ✭✭✭yellum


    I had my essay written for the Leaving Cert about a week before it.

    Its easy to slighty adapt a story when you are only given a title to work with.

    Mine was about a Priest who was asked to testify about an old Parish kid ( now a nasty adult ) who ended up as a child killer.

    The police only had circumstantial evidence to get the child killer. The child killer had made a confession to the priest just to torment him and hold him to his duty but he didn't say exactly that he killed the child but the priest knew he did.

    It was hinted that the priest might lie to have the guy convicted. The essay was about the torment in the priests mind of whether a child killer should go free or him breaking his trust as a priest and also telling an untruth to have this scum of the earth put away.

    It was a good examination of guilt and emotions and throwing your beliefs away for justice.

    I also threw in a really good ending. Just figure out what bits an examiner will look for and will appeal to them. Remember too that they have something stupid like 5 mins to read an essay and grade it so try and make youe one memorable.


  • Subscribers Posts: 9,716 ✭✭✭CuLT


    Yeah,

    The opening paragraph is very importent, I usually sit in an exam thinking about the first couple of line for about 10 mins before I even start to write.

    Also, to write a decent story you have to know the end before you start writing :).

    I used to have a whole load of problems with that, I had great ideas, but I just let them unravel and time became an issue then.

    Think about the essay for a while, figure out a nice story in your head (WITH AN ENDING) and proceed to write.

    I discovered that If you hint at the ending in the beginnig of the story (eg "If I'd known what was going to happen when I was graciously pulled onto to the train by a fellow passanger, I probably would have bitten their hand"), it tends to work out quite well.


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,648 ✭✭✭smiles


    There's a great book: "How and When to Write Short Stories and What They Are" by Morris Lurie

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1863350136/qid=1049374807/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_1/104-9125555-2055959?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

    It's very quirky but really gets the point across.

    From a personal view, the more unusual your story the better.

    Remember there's no point in mentioning useless details (like your main character is wearing orange socks) unless it is vital (like it's his orange socks that get his recognised at some other point).

    Else your story will end up being classed as ranting rubbish.

    << Fio >>


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  • Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 35,454 Mod ✭✭✭✭pickarooney


    I dunno, who wears orange socks? It could be a subtle hint for a reader with a keen mind for psychological profiling.

    OT here, but this reminded me of something I always forget to ask people. You know when you're reading a book, and you get a mental image in your head of what the character looks like, and then about half-way through the book it's mentioned in passing that the character has black hair, whereas you always imagined him as blond*. Does it wreck your head a bit? Do you overlook the detail and keep the same image of the character, or do you have to reimagine him?


    *I looked up blond/e to see if there was a preferred spelling and found out that blond(e) (either will do) refers not only to the colour of the hair, but also to the skin and often to the eye-colour as well. So now.


  • Registered Users Posts: 601 ✭✭✭honeymonster


    Praetorian, if you type up any more of your short stories can you send me a copy please?

    Cheers


  • Subscribers Posts: 9,716 ✭✭✭CuLT


    Methinks its time for Prae to be pimped as an authour ;) .


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,712 ✭✭✭Praetorian


    Thanks ;)

    I've got so many! The problem is if I attempt to type any of them, I'll end up writing the story from scratch, and it takes me hours....and hours.


  • Subscribers Posts: 9,716 ✭✭✭CuLT


    C'mon, does your course really take that much of your time?

    Life can be bypassed for a bit :).


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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,712 ✭✭✭Praetorian


    If I was doing a college course, I'm sure I would have more time to spare! Unfortunately, I'm in full time employment. 9 - 6.30 most days.


  • Moderators, Arts Moderators Posts: 35,454 Mod ✭✭✭✭pickarooney


    That story you posted was excellent, best thing I've read in weeks, if the truth be known.


  • Registered Users Posts: 14,330 ✭✭✭✭Amz


    He is very good isnt he...

    :p:D:p

    Amz
    xx


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,712 ✭✭✭Praetorian


    It's a weird story. It's quite funny at times, which is unusual for me!


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,560 ✭✭✭Ivan


    Originally posted by Praetorian
    Writing essays was probably the only thing I was really good at in school. I actually used to write essays just for the fun of it! I must have 100 essays in my cupboard! For a long time I also wrote my stories spontaneously (Like Ivan ;)). It used to get me into trouble, because the "correct" way to write a story is to have a plan!

    I had an excellent English teacher in 6th year. He eventually convinced me that I should do out a plan, even if it was only very rough. If I was to have a bad day during the exam, the plan would at least show the examiner where I was trying to get too!

    Quick points:

    1- Brainstorm and roughly do out a plan. 5-8 minutes should be enough.

    2- Concentrate on making your first paragraph as perfect and as interesting as you can! Set the scene and use plenty of large adjectives!

    3- At this stage, your imagination will be able to help you put the main body of your essay together with ease!

    4- Once again concentrate hard, so that your final paragraph is as perfect as possible, watch out for spelling and grammatical errors! In my opinion, first and last impressions are the most important!

    5- You can breathe now.

    There are also some great tips here http://www.thewindjammer.com/smfs/newsletter/html/sameold.html

    I think I wrote the following essay about 6 years ago during 4th year (transition year). It’s by no means perfect, like it’s too long for the leaving cert. It’s one of the only short stories I have (on the computer). I must get around to typing the others, so I have them forever!

    You can find it here http://www.praetorian.digihive.com/breaking%20barriers.doc

    Classic story, the ending was a bit predictable but I dont think you could have gone any other way with it.

    I especially like the "Bio-Transfers" is that original or did you pick it up someplace?


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,712 ✭✭✭Praetorian


    I've read and wrote so much scifi that I honestly cannot remember if its original.

    Feel free to post your essays up on this thread.

    I'm going to post a few of mine up soon

    p.s. This is my 666th post....and my name is Damien :eek:


  • Registered Users Posts: 4,560 ✭✭✭Ivan


    Did you play CS for AI or is that another guy?

    666, well now...thats neat...


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,712 ✭✭✭Praetorian


    Thats me! :ninja:


  • Registered Users Posts: 2,287 ✭✭✭thedrowner


    yellum-i'm with you on the learning off one before you go in, thats exactly what i did and i got a really high mark in it in school and a really high mark for it in the leaving cert.

    i'm also of the belief that plans are inhibitory, but like praetorian says, if you've screwed up it's good to have a back up.

    i liked to twist titles (such as 'there's a divinity which shapes our ends' and i went on about some women down the gym trying to get a kylie-esque ass :)), but mostly i just stuck to things i enjoyed and was good at (hobbies etc) and centered my stories around them.if youre writing something you know about you;ll always have something to write- i always think fluidity is the best, my essays were never really unusual or different, but teachers said they were compulsive reading, because they had that fluidity. (hmmm...i got an a2 in an essay once where i wouldv'e gotten an a1 if id hadn't included the word **** in it...ah well)


    praetorian, why don't you scan the stories in, if you have semi legible writing.


  • Registered Users Posts: 9,487 ✭✭✭banquo




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