[Write on Wednesday] Terrific Titles

Flash fiction writers often miss a fabulous opportunity by leaving a quick, ‘working’ title on their story.

That’s the equivalent of marketing a product by telling people how hard you worked on it, instead of selling them on what the product will Do For Them.

Here’s the thing:

  • Title are not usually part of the required word count, so you can go as long as you like!
  • Titles are the sizzle that sells the reader on the steak of your story.
  • Titles can add a whole new layer of meaning to the story, when the reader is finished.

    The Prompt

    Write a 300–500 word story,

    Then, spend an equal amount of time writing a title that is at least 3% as long as the story (that is, 9 words long for a 300 word story, 15 words for a 500 word story)

Tips

  • It is completely acceptable, for today, to use a flash story you’ve written in the past and just re-title it. (And yes, it can be a longer story, just remember I want you to make the title proportional to the story length, so this could get kind of crazy. Good crazy…)
  • If you’re stuck for ideas, write a story based on a (Story Spark)[http://storyaday.org/start-here/storyaday-essentials-series/story-sparks/] you’ve gathered, a character you’ve already created, or an issue that makes gets you excited (for good or ill).
  • Read through the story and pick out the theme.
  • Play with puns, double-meanings, and common proverbs.
  • Remember that your aim is to catch the eye of a potential reader and pull them in, intrigue them enough that they’ll want to read your story.
  • Write a title that is at least 3% as long as the story (word count divided by 100, multiplied by 3) 300 words=9 words, 400 words=12 words, 500 words=15 words, 1000 words= 30 word title! (For the rules-lawyers: you may round up or down as you feel appropriate. This is just an exercise!)
  • Try to make it have a deeper meaning, after the reader has read the story (or to add something to their understanding)
  • Bonus points: Post your title in the comments and see if we’d be intrigued to read it.
  • Extra bonus points: post on someone else’s title to say whether or not you’d read it.

Examples of Long Titles

Clearly Lettered in A Mostly Steady Hand by Fran Wilde, nominated for a Nebular Award for Short Story in 2018. Isn’t that an intriguing title. Why does ‘clearly lettered’ matter and why is the hand only ‘mostly steady’?

Sorry Dan, But It’s No Longer Necessary For A Human To Serve As CEO Of This Company by Eric Cofer

Further reading on Good Titling

Naming the Baby by Bruce Holland Rogers (Flash Fiction Online)

Choosing The Right Name For Your Story by Jason Floyd (Writing World)

 

Leave a comment, telling us your title. Bonus points: leave a comment on someone else’s title, saying whether you’d read on!

[Reading Room] The Breathtaking Power of Dracula – Rolli

Read it online here

This is a flash piece I stumbled across on Twitter.

It was an interesting format: a screenshot/image of a formatted short story, attached to a tweet.

And it’s really odd. Delightfully odd. It’s the kind of thing that makes me go: Yes! See this? THIS is why I love short stories.

Normally I try to provide some Lessons For Writers with this little reviews, but today I think I’m just going to say: go and read this. It’ll take you a minute.

I particularly like the way he promises one thing, delivers something else, but doesn’t forget his promise.

Sometimes writing (and reading) are just…fun.

What do you think of the story? Leave a comment

 

[Write On Wednesday] Specific to Universal

The best stories move from the specific to the universal (or vice versa).

Flash fiction is a wonderful venue for practicing the short-story skill of moving from the specific to the universal.

Stories relate a specific event happening to a specific individual and how it affects them. The best stories also contain ideas that apply to the wider world: to you, to me, to society.

The Prompt

Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Specific to Universal”

[Reading Room] The Worshipful Society of Glovers by Mary Robinette Kowal

It reads like a simple story, but is, in fact, a skillfully crafted tale that hides its author’s hard work well.

This is an excellent example of how to build a story world that feels real, while still telling a story about characters we care about.

(Read it online, here)

Uncanny Magazine screenshot featuring Mary Robinette Kowal's story The Worshipful Society of Glovers

It also comes with the fabulous gift of a blog post unpacking how the author went about writing it. Continue reading “[Reading Room] The Worshipful Society of Glovers by Mary Robinette Kowal”

[Write On Wednesday] Make It Flash

This month at StoryADay we’re all about Flash Fiction!

Flash Fiction image

Flash fiction is loosely defined as being between 250 and 1200  words long, but it is so much more than that.

The best description of Flash Fiction I’ve ever seen goes like this: Continue reading “[Write On Wednesday] Make It Flash”

[Reading Room] Meteor by Josh McColough

This is literal flash fiction, with the flash of a meteor leaving an impression on the eye of the protagonist.

It also leaves the reader with a flash-bulb impression of the two characters he comes across on the beach.

Every line paints pictures of the scene, cramming vivid scenery into our brains in a very few words: Continue reading “[Reading Room] Meteor by Josh McColough”

SWAGr – Accountability for February 2018

Every month we gather here to discuss what we’ve achieved and commit to making more progress in our creative lives in the coming month. We call it our   Serious Writer’s Accountability Group or SWAGr, for short! (We’re serious, not sombre!)

What people are saying about StoryADayMay 2014

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing. Continue reading “SWAGr – Accountability for February 2018”

[Write on Wednesday] Through The Keyhole

This month at StoryADay, I’m focusing on Flash Fiction. Be sure to check in  regularly and follow me on Twitter.

A novel invites the reader to explore an entire house, down to snooping in the closets; a short story requires that the reader stand outside of an open window to observe what’s going on in a single room; and a short short requires the reader to kneel outside of a locked room and peer in through the keyhole.

Bruce Holland Rogers
(2013-02-25). The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction

Let’s take Bruce at his word.

The Prompt

Imagine you’re looking through a big, old-fashioned keyhole, into a room. Write a story of fewer than 1000 words, about what you can see

Tips

  • Think of this as a way of reducing the events of whatever is going on in the room to the moment.
  • Use powerful imagery and strong verbs to narrate the story and make it ‘flash’.
  • In a story this short you probably only have room for one or two characters.
  • A story this short can only focus on one moment/event.
  • Use dialogue to convey information. Hint at backstory with tone and word choice.
  • When you have finished your first draft (and therefore know what the story is about) go back and work on your opening lines

Leave a comment below, letting us know how you got on with this prompt, or what ideas it sparked for you.

[Write On Wednesday] All Writing Is Rewriting

Write Me
Sticking with this month’s theme of Getting You Writing and Breaking Blocks, today’s prompt shares another technique for quieting your inner perfectionist: stealing a story from someone else.

Rewriting a classic story, reworking a story of your own, or just stealing the plot of a folk tale, means there’s one less thing to worry about: plot. Writing this way lets you concentrate on other aspects of your writing:

  • Playing with character
  • Concentrating on your voice
  • Messing with Point of View
  • Trying out unconventional/non-narrative forms of storytelling

The Prompt

Rewrite a story (yours or someone else’s)

Tips

  • Remember that if you’re rewriting a story for publication, you’ll need to be careful you’re not infringing anyone’s rights. Best to stick with classic folk tales, for this. Or, if you’re just writing for your own amusement, infringe away 😉
  • Think about rewriting a story from a secondary character’s point of view. Why do the events of the story matter to them? How do they interfere with this character’s life?
  • Remember that stories don’t need to be told in the right order. In a short story, you don’t even need the beginning, middle and end to all happen within the story. One of them can be implied.
  • In short fiction every word counts. Don’t worry about this too much on a first draft, by try to keep it in mind as you choose how you describe events and scenes. For example, instead of ‘he ate two cheeseburgers, hungrily’ try ‘he inhaled the first cheeseburger, put the second away with workmanlike efficiency’. Notice how ‘making every word count’ doesn’t mean writing fewer words. Don’t you feel you know more about how the scene looked, from the second example?
  • If you need a resource for folk tales to steal, try the University of Pittsburgh’s archive.

[Write on Wednesday] Story Starter

Starting can be the hardest part of writing a story, so this week I’m giving you an opening line, to break through that block.

I’ve written before about opening lines and how important they are to a story, so don’t think that this opening line has to be your story’s opening line forever. In fact, these Wednesday prompts are designed to get you writing and often result in throwaway tales, rather than works of art, but the point is: you’re writing.

Read more about opening lines here (listen to the podcast version, here).

The Prompt

She had never understood why anyone would want a tattoo.

Tips

  • You can change the gender pronouns to suit your preferences
  • You can change the POV and voice of the piece
  • Think about setting a timer and just seeing where the story takes you
  • Or think about a character and their wants/needs before you start writing
  • You might want to think about the climax/midpoint of a story about a character like this, and write towards it
  • Will you character end up getting a tattoo? Understanding why people want them? Being tattooed against her will?

Feel free too share here, in the comments.

[Write On Wednesday] Word Salad

Sometimes lowering the stakes for a story can be the best way to make your writing go well.

So let’s play. Let’s be silly. Let’s write a story that can’t possibly be a masterpiece and just, instead, have some fun.

How? I’m going to give you a list of words and you’re going to write a story using them. I’d love it if you’d post your story in the comments, so we can all compare notes.

(Sometimes it’s surprising how much non-terrible writing comes out of this exercise!)

The Prompt

Use these words in your short-short story: die, ago, seat, time, imagining, even, making, league, sacrifices, rose

(These words were all drawn at random from The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan, which just happened to be lying near my desk.)

Go!

[Writing Prompt] The Cruelest Month

Happy New Year!

Here’s your first writing prompt of the year.

The Prompt

Use the title The Cruelest Month and set your timer for 30 minutes. Write a story with a beginning, middle and an end

Tips

  • Spend five minutes brainstorming a character, a situation, a problem, and then start writing.
  • At the ten minute mark, make sure you’re moving into the meat of the story, complicating your character’s life.
  • At the twenty minute mark, start writing your way to the finale. Even if the story is sketchy, start planning your ending, and race towards it.
  • Spend a few minutes reading over the story, making notes on things you might like to change/add.
  • Revel in your ability to tell a story!

SWAGr – Accountability for January 2018

Every month we gather here to discuss what we’ve achieved and commit to making more progress in our creative lives in the coming month. We call it our   Serious Writer’s Accountability Group or SWAGr, for short! (We’re serious, not sombre!)

What people are saying about StoryADayMay 2014

Leave a comment below telling us how you got on last month, and what you plan to do next month, then check back in on the first of each month, to see how everyone’s doing.

(It doesn’t have to be fiction. Feel free to use this group to push you in whatever creative direction you need.)

Did you live up to your commitment from last month? Don’t remember what you promised to do? Check out the comments from last month.

And don’t forget to celebrate with/encourage your fellow SWAGr-ers on their progress!

Download your SWAGr Tracking Sheet now, to keep track of your commitments this month

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Examples of Goals Set By SWAGr-ers in previous months

  • Write a story a day in May – everyone!
  • Revise at least 10 short stories – Iraide
  • Write two short stories. – Jami
  • Attend one writers’ conference – Julie
  • Write fable for WordFactory competition – Sonya
  • Re-read the backstory pieces I wrote in May and see if I can use them within my novel – Monique
  • Research the market – Jami
  • Focus on my serial – Maureen

 So, what will you accomplish this month? Leave your comment below (use the drop-down option to subscribe to the comments and receive lovely, encouraging notifications from fellow StADa SWAGr-ers!)

(Next check-in, 1st of the month. Tell your friends. )


When The Student Is Ready…

2015 Battle of the Books @ Mt. Hebron HS

When I started StoryADay May back in 2010, some of 100 or so people who took part really stuck with me. One was Gabriela Pereira, who had just finished up an MFA and was transitioning from student to working writer. We shared an enthusiasm both for writing and for the hair-brained scheme.

Back then, I was a couple of years ahead of her in the online, community-building, content-marketing , writing-for-pay experience. Now she has soared into the writing world as a leader, a teacher, an inspirer and, in her own words, Chief Instigator at her project:  DIY MFA.

This afternoon I tuned in to her latest webinar, sort of as a favor. I’ve heard the talk before, live and in person, and was really just showing in case no one else did. Of course, there were tons of people on the call, loads of questions from attendees, and Gabriela fired people up and sent them away with tools and techniques to make their writing better, as always.

But — it shouldn’t surprise me, but it did — what I hadn’t expected to happen was that I had a breakthrough about my own novel-in-progress, while listening to Gabriela talk. Suddenly, I knew exactly what the turning point at the mid-point of my novel needed to be. More than knowing it, I could *picture* it.

I rushed off to my office and scrawled three pages of notes, opened up Scrivener and started adding scene cards to the second half of my novel’s file. I got super excited, and then realized how much writing I had to do…then chose to see that as exciting too!

Did I mention I’ve heard this talk at least twice before?

Lesson learned: when you find a teacher/mentor/friend whose words you really connect to, stick to them. Revisit their lessons. Re-read their books. Get on webinars and conference calls with them. Ask questions. Go over and over their lessons at different stages of your development and the development of each of your projects.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears, as my old mate the Buddha apparently never said.

If you want to get in on the remaining webinars in Gabriela’s current series, here’s some info:

Perfect Your Plot, Structure Your Story – December 14

Rock Your Revisions – December 21

 

(Some links on this page—the webinars and the one to Scrivener—are affiliate links, but I never recommend anything I don’t believe in 100%.)

[Writing Prompt] Write A Seasonal Story

Maypole

Today I’m encouraging you to write a seasonal story, just not one for this season.

Of course, you can write a Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/New Year/Festivus story if you want, but if you’re thinking about building your portofolio of stories that you might submit to a market soon, your best best is to write 3-6 months ahead. Publications have reading deadlines, lead times and design concerns to wrestle with, so yes, it is time to start thinking about your Mother’s Day stories now!

The Prompt

Write a seasonal story for a publication you enjoy, for a holiday/event six months from now.

Tips

  • Lots of editors tell me that they are always looking for timely stories for the lesser holidays, like Father’s Day (sorry, Dads) or about people dancing around a Maypole.
  • Pick a holiday or anniversary that hasn’t been done to death. Make sure it is 3-6 months away.
  • Leave more time if you like to submit your work to critique partners before you submit.
  • Go beyond the obvious ideas for a story about that holiday: look for the underlying themes, and write about that. For example, rather than telling a story about a father and son doing something on Father’s day, your story could address expectations, generational issues, frustration, disappointment, joy and other issues that come up on every Hallmark holiday.
  • By all means, write a ChristmaKwanzukkahNewyear story if you like to send it out directly to your readers, family and friends. (That’s probably what I’ll be doing today!)

Come back and leave a comment to tell me what you wrote about.

Go!