[Write On Wednesday] Four-Part Story

I’m currently fascinated by a short story experiment being run by Penguin Random House.

They’re running a series called “The Season of Stories“. You subscribe, and they send you a story every week.

But that’s not the interesting part.

The interesting part is that they serialize the story.

Every day, Monday-Thursday, you receive part of a story.

It’s how short stories were read in publications back at the start of the golden age of short story writing, and it’s something we’ve moved away from. Instead of making them bite-sized treats, we sell short stories by weight, packaged into collections. Then we try to sell them to readers who have been trained on novels.

(No wonder short story collections don’t sell well!)

With a novel, you, the reader, carve out some time to plunge yourself into a story world, allow yourself to be pulled along by cliffhangers, spend time getting to know the characters.

Short stories aren’t like that.

Readers, in general, don’t know what to do with a short story collection, but anyone can open their email and read a quarter of a story. Especially one that has been well-crafted.

Today I want you to practice crafting a story that will keep bringing a reader back for more.

Stories naturally break into four parts: inciting incident, rising action, midpoint shift, then climax/conclusion/resolution.  Each part must end with a kicker that leaves the reader wanting more (yes, even the end).

The Prompt

Write a story that can be read in four parts. Focus on creating mini-cliffhangers at each quarter point.

Tips

  • The Seasons of Stories shorts have ranged from 600-1900 words per installment. You can choose a length that works for you.
  • This is a great way to promote your other writing. PRH’s emails come with a ‘if you enjoyed this, read more in this book’ ad at the end. But it never feels ‘salesy’ because they’ve given me a free sample and are simply letting me know where I can find more, if I liked it. Sometimes this link is to a novel by the same author. Sometimes it is to a collection of short stories containing stories by the author. (Now that they’ve trained me to read shorts, they can sell me their collection!)
  • Don’t forget to raise a big story question at the start (remember: you can do this in revisions), that won’t be addressed until the climax/end. Do this in addition to the mini-cliffhangers at the end of each section.
  • If you need some examples, check out The Season of Stories. It’s free.
  • I heard about this from Daniel Pink’s newsletter. If you like this, consider subscribing to that. It’s a short read and he shares interesting stuff like this, every other week.

Now, go and write your story.

Come back and tell me how it went!

 

[Write On Wednesday] – Style Switch

The Write On Wednesday story prompts are designed to prompt quickly-written stories that you can share in the comments. It’s a warm-up exercise, to loosen up your creativity muscles. Come back every Wednesday to see a new prompt.


This week’s prompt was inspired by yesterday’s Tuesday Reading Room story, The  Sellout by Mike Cooper. In that story, the author uses traditional hard-boiled detective tropes, but his detective is investigating… accounting fraud.  

The Prompt – Style Switcheroo





Write a story where you use a familiar style of writing (Romance, space opera, Western, literary fiction, YA paranormal, political thriller, whatever you’re most familiar with) but use it to treat a subject that is outwith the normal subject matter  for that genre.

(Think: Pride & Prejudice and Zombies, or Tom Clancy trying to write a bodice-ripper, FF. Scott Fitzgerald on a space station…)

What will you write?

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it. 
  • Do feel free to cross over into parody or be ridiculous. It’s just a fun exercise.
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my short story: [style] meets [subject]  #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is a style switch! #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

Come and write with us! #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb 

See my story – and write your own, today: Style Switch at #WriteOnWed #storyaday http://wp.me/p1PnSG-qb

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Digital Story Cubes

OK, so I’ve used my real-life Story Cubes to generate a prompt once before, but now the cute game has an even cuter app, and who am I to resist?

So, behold: this week’s story prompt comes from the Rory’s Story Cubes app.

 

storycubesapp

I’ll leave it up to you whether you use ALL the cubes, but I think I have to insist that you use at least five. Good luck!

(P.S. With a shooting star, a magic wand, a turtle and a world, how many of you are going to be writing Discworld fan-fic?)

 

Tips

  • Don’t worry about your audience and who might read it
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You should use the prompt in your story (however tenuous the connection).
  2. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  3. Post the story in the comments — if you’re brave enough.
  4. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Don’t miss my StoryCube-inspired short story:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is dice-based! #storyaday

Come and write with us:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

See my story – and write your own, today:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.

[Write On Wednesday] Six Sentences

This week’s prompt comes with a built-in market to submit your work to after you’re finished: Six Sentences. I subscribe to their daily stories by email and I often find it inspiring to wake up to a micro-story written by someone else. Surely, my brain says to me, you could manage a story in six sentences today.

Six Sentences screenshot

The challenge of course is that even (especially?) a six-sentence story has to have a beginning, a middle, a end, a clever idea, some action and (incredible, instantly) engaging characters. Micro-stories often have a twist to give them a kick, but they don’t have to – as today’s submission shows.

The Prompt

Write a story in six sentences.

Six sentences.

You can do that, right?

Tips

  • It’s probably best to emphasize only one feature (character or setting or action, or the twist) but all the other elements must be there too.
  • Write fast, as fast as you can.
  • Make sure your story travels from start to end: don’t just write a scene, make someone or something change between the first word and the last.

The Rules:

  1. You must write the story in one 24 hr period – the faster the better.
  2. This week, DON’T post the story in the comments — but do leave a comment saying you wrote something.
  3. Find something nice to say about someone else’s story and leave a comment. Everybody needs a little support!

Optional Extras:

Submit your story to Six Sentences!
Share this challenge on Twitter or Facebook

Some tweets/updates you might use:

Could you write a six sentence short story?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

This week’s #WriteOnWed short story prompt is Six Sentences: #storyaday

Come and keep your writing resolution with this week’s prompt:  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

I wrote my story today – will you write yours?  #WriteOnWed #storyaday

If you would like to be the Guest Prompter, click here.