More short stories!

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Two posts in one day: my procrastination is going into overdrive.

Creative writing class today was focusing again on short stories, this time looking at the opening paragraph. This was really interesting, and I definitely enjoyed it. Towards the end of the class, we each wrote different versions of opening paragraphs for the short story outline we were supposed to have done for this week. Oops. I came up with something in the end, so fingers crossed that’ll keep working for me. It was brilliant to listen to everyone’s opening paragraphs and really get a sense of how the opening of a story sets the tone for the entire thing. It’s one thing to see that with published stories, but to hear two versions of what you know will be the same basic plot, and to then realise how different the stories would be just based on the first paragraph is fascinating.

I’m looking forward more, however, to next week when we will be discussing character development, my FATAL FLAW (dun dun duuuun). I wrote a (very) short story over the weekend, just to see if I could pick out why it was so hard for me to write them, and showed it to my fiancé (who writes a lot himself) in order to see if a) we came up with the same problems, and b) what he could see that I couldn’t. This is what we eventually decided were the main problems.

Problem 1:

My characters are two dimensional, and if they don’t resemble pancakes, they resemble me. Far more than a character should: the story read like I was telling it, even though it was in first person, and should have at least a somewhat different voice. Even including the protagonist, all the characters were super boring. Even if I had some motivation for them in my head, it clearly wasn’t coming across on paper (on screen?).

Solution:

No idea. I’m seriously going to need your help with this one!

Problem 2:

Nothing happens. There was some conflict in the story, but it was very minor, and since the characters were so bland, the reader doesn’t really give a shit about them anyway. But basically, there was no obvious plot or even structure to the story.

Solution:

Actually plan the story instead of just writing the first thing that comes into my head. I also need to start searching more for various prompts and things, so that my story has an actual premise or even a message. Most importantly, I need to figure out how to tell that message: I’m a devil for planning out a story, finding an ending, and then never bothering to write it because sure I know how it ends now.

As you can see, that’s basically everything! No plot and no characters: there’s really nothing else in the story. I’m hoping next week can help me sort this out, but please, if you have any ideas or tips, comment and let me know!

We started the class as usual with freewriting, which I am also terrible at. Part of this is because the class starts at 9 am, which is before my caffeine fully kicks in, and I’m nowhere near awake enough to be creative. I end up with a diary entry that’s interspersed with guilt and angst over what I’m supposed to be getting out of this exercise. I think maybe if I find prompts to talk about beforehand that would help? It’s worth a shot, anyway!

The readings for this week were James Joyce’s A Little Cloud and a modern response to it called Two Little Clouds by Joseph O’Connor. I had to really watch my language during the class discussion, because I had been calling O’Connor’s story a remix in my head since I read it. Both stories individually were totally amazing, and the way they interacted was also really interesting, since they weren’t just exact parallels set in different time periods. It’s also very interesting to think about the language used within the fanfic community to describe forms of writing that are used equally in the ‘real world’ of literature. Why can’t I call O’Connor’s story a remix? Because it’s a modern word, is it devalued? What’s the difference between this ‘response’ and certain kinds of fanfiction, considering a lot of fanfiction explores missing elements of an ‘original’ work, and other kinds of what ifs?

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