Anatomy of a short story

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anatomy of a short story

The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook by G.B. Pool

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Published 02.12.2018

John Truby's Top 25 Screenwriting Lessons

On the Successful Anatomy of a Short Story

At the beginning of every school year, my sophomores read and write about a short story by Mark Helprin called "White Gardens. Every fall it occurred to me how beautifully "White Gardens" was written ; sometimes, as the class read, I sat there marveling at Helprin's use of structure, imagery, and language. A few years ago, it occurred to me that maybe, as a writer, I might have something to learn from this story of the funeral of a group of firefighters who died in a fire, one lone widow, and the young priest who makes a small error during his eulogy. I started by retyping the story myself to get a sense of its structure and pace, and then I marked it up the way I might mark a student's essay. I noticed immediately that it starts "in media res", meaning "in the middle of things. In the middle of his eulogy, the priest said, 'Now they must leave us to repose in white gardens,' and then halted in confusion, for he had certainly meant green gardens.

Brighter Anatomy of a short story. Love writing stories but want to make them better? Characters in short fiction are often outsiders, on the margins, or isolated. But the short story invites us into their — often unreliable — point of view. Writers need to know their characters well, even if, in the short story, we only see the tip of the iceberg of their memories, experiences, conscious and unconscious mind, loves, hates, desires and fears.

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I recently acquired a medium-sized whiteboard to track deadlines. The primary contents are anthology deadlines and other due dates, such as the 17 th of each month for this essay. I currently have deadlines for February and March on it, as well as a list of projects without specific deadlines that I want to keep in mind. Few of these dates are absolutes for me. A couple of weeks ago I submitted a story, then wiped it off the board and looked at what was next. As I sometimes do when trying to come up with an idea for a themed anthology—a project I think of as being akin to homework for a creative writing class—I pulled out from my top left-hand desk drawer a file where I keep clippings, hand-written notes and web-page printouts.

Some time ago, I was invited by writer and editor Jennifer D. Foster to participate in an interview on how to create a successful short story. Jennifer knew my work as a short story writer and had heard me speak at the Editors Association of Canada. She also knew that I teach the short story form as part of my science fiction course at George Brown College. Years ago I got my start as an author using this helpful market guidebook. So, I was both pleased and thrilled to be inside the edition!


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