Write a story in the form of a list
- You could write
- a ‘to do’ list,
- a list of grievances addressed to your character’s boss/children/spouse;
- a shopping list;
- a McSweeney’s style list;
- a list of steps you are advising someone to take,
- any other type of list you like.
- The title is hugely important. You might need to write it last. It should perhaps have a double meaning: it might mean one thing to the reader before they read the story and yet peel away a layer once the story is in their brains.
- Don’t be afraid to let the reader work. Leave things out. Imply much, explain little.
- Don’t feel the need to wrap this up neatly. Jennifer Egan doesn’t.
- The twist in this kind of tale, comes because the form betrays the meaning: a list is a utilitarian, ephemeral thing. The more important/dramatic the issue your character takes on in the list, the more impact the story will have (this can be dramatic, funny, ridiculous, dark, or anything else!)
Breaking with the narrative form again today, after flogging it’s poor dead horse corpse at the beginning of the week. Today we tackle a form for which I have an inexplicable and enduring love: letters!
Write An Epistolary Story (i.e. One Told As A Series of Letters/Documents)
- Take the term “Letters/Documents” with a huge pinch of salt. Write a story made up of Tweets, Facebook updates, text messages between friends, comments on a Vine video, an author Q&A, whatever tickles your fancy.
- Write a ‘story’ as a list (think McSweeneys).
- Write a mock guidebook to some place you know well (or some experience you’ve been through)
- Write an open letter to someone your character hates/loves/has a bone to pick with. Consider including a response from their object of scorn/affection/correction.
What form did you choose? How did it work out for you? Leave a comment or join the conversation in the community.
This idea for a story is ripped from the song “Them’s The Vagaries” by Half Man Half Biscuit (thanks, guys!). The narrator says, near the start of the song, “Now we’ve kissed I’ve prepared this list, I thought you ought to know…” and goes on to tell his new love about all his quirks starting with “I’ll not sit backwards on the train” and proceeding down to the most bizarre of pet peeves.
Write a story that begins “Now that we’ve kissed, here are some things you ought to know”
- Write this as a monologue or a dialogue, whichever works for you.
- This has the potential to be funny or tragic.
- Feel free to write this as a list (like the McSweeney’s lists) or as a series of tweets, or as an oral history (which will make it more like a traditional short story in form).
- Even if you go with the non-traditional forms (lists etc) there is still a lot of scope for the beginning, middle, end structure.
- Only the journey you take your readers on will be emotional, rather than literal (from flippant to poignant; from innocent to creepy…).
- Think of the most colorful people you have ever met or the worst date you were ever on. Imagine one of those people writing this.