Emotions Should Lead to Decisions

Here’s a tidbit from the Bookshelf Muse, which I came across this week: Emotions should lead to decisions. Angela Ackerman writes, “Always keep the story moving forward. A character agonizing over a choice will crank up the tension and heighten stakes, but too much will slow the pace. Remember too, often when emotion is involved, we make mistakes. Mistakes = great conflict!” Continue reading

What’s the Situation?

I have a couple of short stories stories I’m working on that don’t seem to be going anywhere. I took a break from spinning my wheels the other day and came across a little section titled “Situation” in the book Creating Short Fiction, by Damon Knight. He writes, “A dramatic situation is unstable—you know it can’t stay this way forever—and it has at least two possible outcomes, one very desirable and one not.” At the end of this short section, he provides an exercise. It is this: Choose three published plotted stories that you like, and for each one write a one-sentence description of the situation (a) at the beginning of the story and (b) at the end. Continue reading

A Character Is What She Does

In Ron Carlson Writes a Story, Carlson says, “A character is what he or she does.” He writes, “Action is narrative evidence. It proves as it goes, whereas adjectival telling (she was careless, manipulative, compulsive, willful) alerts us to how a character might be, but doesn’t prove it with the force good drama requires.”

This notion of character in motion seems obvious. But can I just tell you how many drafts of stories I have where someone is walking or sitting or thinking? Too many. Or what about thinking and walking? Or remembering and sitting? Why is it so difficult for me to get my characters moving?

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