[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”

095 – Flash Fiction Part 1

February is the shortest month, so we’re focusing on the shortest of fiction: flash! 

(And, yes, I know there are shorter forms, but this is the particular short-short form I picked, ok?)

This week I talk about what flash is and why you might want to be writing it. Includes bonus trivia about Impressionism.

 

LINKS

Last week’s flash fiction writing prompt: http://storyaday.org/wow-make-it-flash/

The latest Reading Room review featuring flash fiction: http://storyaday.org/rr-meteor-mccolough/

This month’s Accountability Group post: http://storyaday.org/swagr-feb-2017/

Follow StoryADay on Twitter: @storyadaymay

 

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

[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.

093 – Getting Creative In The New Year

Happy New Year! If you haven’t quite settled into your new routine (or your old routine) yet, and want to get creative, this is the episode for you.

Also, I’m inviting feedback on the questions of

-What you do to get yourself to your desk

-What routines/practices you use to start work

Call and leave me a message, and I might air your question/comment on the podcast: 484 393 2233

Please leave a name, and a brief message, or just email me at julie at storyaday dot org

TRANSCRIPT

Happy New Year! It is 2018.

We’re all coming to our writing life with our New Year’s Resolutions in hand. We’re all full of new ideas about what we’re going to do right this year. If you’re like me, you’ve gone through some goal setting exercises; you’ve analyzed what did and didn’t work last year and you’ve started January 1 with this burst of optimism…

…It’s Jan 10. How’s it going?

Yeah.

I’ve done some writing — some things have gone right — but I have to say I’m not feeling the fresh start. Part of that is because winter is horrible. It’s out to get me.

I don’t know what it’s like where you live, but I’m in the northeast of the US, it’s shockingly cold. People from Michigan are probably laughing at me, but I’m not used to this in Pennsylvania. It’s COLD!

My kids have been back of school, supposedly, but only two of those days have been full days. I’ve been woken up early by calls about late openings and snow days. I’ve gone and picked them up from school, which is not what I normally do. (I’m a horrible mother who usually says “walk home, its only a mile and you won’t melt in the rain’. The last couple of week I’ve been picking them up because they weather men keep saying things like ‘frostbite in ten minutes’ and it seems a little harsh.) My afternoons have been curtailed and I get to go out and be annoyed by the rude people in the school car line, and then feel bad about myself. Then I sit in more traffic trying to get out of the school. I find the whole experience irritating.

These are petty First World Problems, and I know that…and none of that helps with my creativity.

Why am I telling you this self-pitying story?

I’m trying to figure out why inspire of all my best efforts—no, my good intentions—I have not been rushing to my computer and spinning fantasies and words and building worlds and having dreams and just pounding the keyboard and getting tons of work done. I haven’t got back into my routine yet.

Most of us have had some kind of disruption over the past month or two and it can be difficult to get back into your creative zone. So here’s some of the things I’m thinking about.

Coming Up On Future Podcasts

I’m thinking about going back to my goal-setting work that I tried to do in December. I’m thinking about the emotional connections to the goals I set. Which I’ll talk about that stuff on the next podcast. Then, I’ll talk about the day-to-day things I’m trying, and that you might be trying, to get back to writing.

Even if you have unlimited time it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get work done. I often find that when I have less time I get more done.

We all need to build habits that propel us into our work day and we’ll talk about that in the next couple of weeks.

We fail all the time and failure is a wonderful teacher (I’ve been watching the new Star Wars film, can you tell?). But it is obvious, if you look around the world, that the people who succeed are those who fail and get back up. So, the third thing I’m going to talk about over the next few weeks is this idea of ‘if/then’ tricks to help you reset.

We all have great intentions and we have goals and we have habits we know we should be doing. Still, we fall down, things happen, we get derailed. In this moments, it can be very useful to have an ‘if/then’ contingency plan ready.

e.g. If I don’t do my work today, then I will meditate before writing tomorrow and write 1.5 as many words as I am supposed to…

Your Feedback

I would love to hear from you about your experiences. What you do to get yourself excited about your work. What you do on a daily basis to transition from person in the real world to person creating a fantasy world. How do you get yourself from being a functioning human adult in every day society into the temporary insanity that is your make believe world?

I”m not even ready talk yet about writing technique. This is just about habits that you use to get yourself into what John Cleese calls ‘the open mode’, what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow state”, and what you do to forgive yourself for your mistakes.

If you’d like to provide some feedback, call and leave a message: 484 393 2233 or email julie at storyaday.org

THIS WEEK’S WRITING PROMPT:

Word Salad [http://storyaday.org/write-on-wednesday-word-salad/]

Use this silly prompt to write a quick & dirty story, and break any writing blocks you might be harboring.

 

 

Another new episode of Write Every Day, Not “Some Day”

[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!