Latest News From Glengoyne Distillery
- Crème Brûlée by Celebrity Chef, Tom Lewis
- Glengoyne and London Scottish announce three year sponsorship deal
- Glengoyne Live Cask Event A Dram Good Success
- Glengoyne unveils exquisite 35yo decanter
- Glengoyne Unites the Auld Enemy at the Balmoral
- Trophy GOLD for Glengoyne at the Drinks International Travel Retail Awards
- 21 year old malt added to 20cl range
- Glengoyne CHAS Easter Bash
- Glengoyne Distillery is going 100% green
- Dinner is served
Short Story Writing - 5 Tips from Author Clio Gray
By Yvonne Granger
Posted on: 04 April 2012
SHORT STORY GUIDE LINES
Essentially, when you write a short story, you are creating a tiny universe and inviting other people to spend ten minutes of their life inside it, so make it count. Make your reader (our Competition Judges in this case) want to return to that universe again and again.
As someone who reads upwards of 400 short stories a year, here are a few simple guidelines:
1. THE BASICS - READ THE RULES : MAKE SURE YOUR STORY CONFORMS
Working in the given theme, no matter how loosely
Dont use fancy fonts these can be hard work to read
2. THE BEGINNING
Judges have a lot of stories to get through, and your story needs to stand out.
You need to grab their interest right away with:
- A Catchy or Interesting Title
- A good first line that hooks the reader in
- A good first paragraph to land the reader and make them want to read on
Its a good idea to let the story lie for a couple of days once youve written it, and then go back and re-read with fresh eyes;
Check for the above catchy title, good first line, good first paragraph;
Often you can see straightaway that it needs jazzing up a little maybe as simple as swapping a couple of words around, or a sentence here or there, or perhaps - reading through to the end of the story - you can shift the plot, reconstruct the start to make it more gripping, raise expectations, hint at the outcome.
3. THE ENDING
The ending is just as important as the beginning. The reader must feel theyve gone from A to B and learned something of interest along the way, or experienced some kind of journey.
This is especially important for crime-related stories, where the expectation is that something bad has happened and we need to know why.
You need a last good line or two to sum up the essence of the story.
The conclusion itself does not necessarily have to be conclusive - it can be ambiguous. But if that is the case, be very clear about the ambiguity - do not leave the reader hanging, wondering what on earth was going on.
One interesting thing to do is to read the introduction of a story, and then read the end, see how they tally has the mood changed?
Has the beginning hinted already at the end?
If a conflict has been set up, does it appear to have been resolved?
Could you in fact put the ending at the beginning and use the story to explain how we got there?
Remember always that the story, especially in a competition context, is not primarily for the writer, but for the person who is going to read it.
Many stories are dialogue-driven, and this is fine.
It can give the story immediacy, a sense of the people involved in its drama, but if you are going to use a lot of dialogue, then the dialogue needs to function properly.
- It must be naturalistic.
Do not allow it to sound rehearsed, or far too articulate for the character who is supposed to be speaking;
When using children, make sure theyre not voicing what is an essentially adults train of thought, or making deductions, or interpreting a situation, in a manner that is far older than their years.
- Accents/Idiomatic speech
This comes up a lot in Scottish-based stories, and again, is fine. But bear in mind that your reader is not going to want to struggle through half a page of phonetically written-down speech. Try to keep to norms as far as you can with spelling and grammar, otherwise readers are going to find themselves skipping over the bits that are too much hard work and consequently lose interest in the story.
Local words are good, as long as their sense is made clear from the context.
- Watch the he said/she saids, make sure they tally, make sure your quotation marks are in the right place.
- Avoid over-use of peoples names in dialogue to indicate who is speaking and to whom, because that is just not the way people speak:
Mary, I was wondering if you wanted to go shopping? said Joan.
Yes, Joan, I certainly was thinking of it, Mary replied.
Well, Mary, why dont we go on Saturday to the sales? Joan asked.
Why not, Joan. Thats a good idea.
This is how not to do it!
Far better to make it realistic, or to replace it with a simple sentence:
Mary, said Joan, looking at her friend. How do you fancy a shopping trip?
Id love it! Mary replied. How about Saturday?
Joan decided to ask her friend if she wanted to go on a shopping trip, to which Mary replied that yes, she did.
How about Saturday? Joan suggested.
Fantastic! Mary agreed, and so they were decided.
5. THE STORY AS A WHOLE
Read your story through carefully once you have written it: is it doing what you wanted it to do? Does it have atmosphere and tension? Are the people in it believable characters? Is there a logical thread linking the beginning to the end?
Competition judges read many stories, and there are a few major faults that will make those judges throw a story to one side with disgust, no matter how competent the writing.
- It is far too long for what it is trying to say
- It is far too short for what it is trying to say
- The characters are not well enough defined, either from each other, or from what the omnipotent narrator (the writer) is trying to say
- The grammar is all over the place, which makes reading very hard work
- There is not enough satisfaction from the ending to justify the time spent on reading all the way through the last thing you want is for a judge to feel let down, frustrated, or confused, because if they do, its good bye, and no second chances