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Day 11 – Other People’s Middles

Today we study how other authors manage to write the middle of their stories successfully.

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With an idea in mind for how your middle might begin, I’m inviting you again, today, to take a moment to read how some other people manage this.

Again, because fiction is an art as well as a craft the examples you read will differ from yours (some might not fit into the framework obviously, at all, especially if they are experimental in form).

But the idea is to read some stories like a writer (not a just a reader) and see if you can figure out why the author chose to have their character do what they do, in the order they do.

  • Does it make sense?
  • Does it tell you something about the character (without explicitly telling you something about the character)?
  • Does each progression grow out of the actions the character took, or do they seem random? Which is most satisfying?

Here are some suggestions of stories you might want to read

10 modern short stories
10 classic short stories printable iamge

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14 thoughts on “Day 11 – Other People’s Middles”

  1. I read There Will Come Soft Rains, by the great Ray Bradbury. The main character is a house, which was intriguing from the start. There is a clean, linear feel to the story that makes the sequence of events simple to follow, even within the briliant descriptive detail. (Yep, I am a Bradbury geek.) Great exercise!

  2. Really enjoyed reading at least half a dozen of the suggested titles. I try to read with a writers eye these days as it teaches me so much. Having such a focused task was a new slant on my approach and a very valuable tool. Some brilliant writers out there, so much skill.

  3. This is where it all falls apart for me. I had previously studied most of the stories in the classic collection, so I tried a couple of the modern selections. Most were links to story collections on Amazon? I read Butterfly Girl. What I felt was overwhelming hopelessness.

    1. Modern stories tend to be so varied and rebellious that it can be hard to use any of them as models. It’s what I love about them, and why I’ve spent time developing a single ‘starter’ framework so we can all start somewhere!

      I know, offhand, that Robot and Crow is available online. Many of the others may be too, if you Google them. Usually they start their lives in journals (which often have online presences) before migrating to the collections I linked to.

      1. Robot and Crow is a lovely story! It follows a much more traditional course. Plus I love a happy ending. I think my story-in-progress will likely have an ambiguous/open ending, with an author’s hope that the reader will recognize what the happiest ending would be and retain the data for future use.

  4. I decided to read “Vampires in the Lemon Grove”. Who can resist a title like that? I can definitely follow the and-because-of-that sequence, though, unlike my story, there seem to be several desires of varying intensity in play at once.

    Also, I got sucked down the rabbit hole and now I’m trying to dig up the whole collection by this author at my public library.

  5. How do you usually handle flashbacks within the framework? Is the flashback itself an action (because of this, the main character recalled…)? Or does the flashback have its own set of actions? Or maybe it’s sort of a separate aside or device?

    I bet it’s variable but seemed worth discussing. 🙂 For the several stories I checked out, I stuck to the present moment actions for this exercise. And again, wonderful examples!

    1. GREAT question.

      Flashbacks are a big topic and worth talking about. One of the problematic things about flashbacks in a short story is that they add so many words and we don’t have that many to play with (it’s like a change of location, or the introduction of a new character. Each one requires a certain word count to do justice to).

      I think, keeping it narrowly to your question, it probably does count as an action, because if you’re taking the trouble to jump back there, you are probably doing it so you can show us something of significance to the character and I would hope that, in there, you ARE showing us the character DOING something 😉

      For that reason, I’d shy away from anything that includes the words “they recalled”. Telling us about recollections, feelings or thoughts is not very active. Does that make sense?

      I am nitpicking your choice of words above, i know, because I have Strong Feelings about the value of being concise in short fiction, something I will be talking about on the 21st when — exclusive! — I’ll be doing a live review of some of your stories (stay tuned for details)

      1. Awesome, thanks for these thoughts! For the record “they recalled” was just me trying to fit a phrase into the framework itself — and there are definitely no flashbacks in my own story, because I share your Strong Feelings. 😀 But I’d run across them in multiple other stories and it made me wonder.

      2. My short story has flashbacks; they are key to what has happened and is happening to the character in the time of the story. Would you have any recommendations of how to work them in? (I just have a framework/outline now, so haven’t used any “they recalled” offenders in the actual work.)

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