Thoughts on the Short Story

October 27, 2011
By , Montreal, Canada
Any writer should fill whatever word that's chosen with spirit. If there's no spirit in it then the work isn't a work. The reader should still be able to feel as if the character, whoever the author chooses this to be, can actually sit in the same room.

So how to start a story, delimited by the first sentence? Unless what's chosen to be written is a murder novel or short story, this is hard to do. So what, then? Because in murder stories you have a dead body which is dead and no one knows how or why. He was killed, his blood covered every wall of his room so the maid quit. And only the killer knows the details- and we've yet to find out the killer. This sort of story construction is enough to suck anyone in. But what of all the other genres that stories grow vital from? What then?

In my world anyone who comes after Chekhov, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Vonnegut sounds like the aforementioned. The same goes for O'Connor, Welty, Woolf, Stein and Austen, too. I'm no sexist.

What house do these immortal titans live in?

A great one in which they are completely at home with themselves, or at least only to an extent, with their works, that leaves a wide, open slew of aspiring writers to stand and revere in awe.

So what, then?

We see their house. And we try to model ours after theirs. We fail. We try again. We fail just as hard like before and try again...someone's got the flooring all wrong.

But as common sense would have it, we try too hard and our hands push outwards in our skulls trying to dream up a masterpiece as Chekhov's "The Lady with the dog".

We try, try, try, try, try, and forget. "The lady with the dog" was written with spirit!

Spirit, yes! Yell it from the rooftops why dontcha?

We somehow forgot that all we dream, all we want, is actually just right there. I see my influence everyday and when I try to speak I fall and stumble with aplomb. I stumble and fall, by my own tongue really, and the influence is on its way farther and farther on from me.

... I'm trailing.

So how do we start a short story with no dead bodies and no blood? Simple. We find the dead bodies.

But with all seriousness aside, the short story should start in such a way that the reader cannot lose interest while at the same time trying to meet some resolve. Think of it as a musical phrase that needs resolve -the trick is- that which is not found in the opening sentence. An easier way to imagine what's just been said is borrowing something from the mystery short story, only dabbling and construing a little.

"Margaret answered his question with silence, and started to follow Steve's back when he shrugged and turned away."

Let's see where this goes.

"She began. She kept her hands of him, but still did her cry cause everyone by the lockers in the hallway to stare, some who had their earbuds in paused their players. The man she was wishing, reaching out for, caught eye with some other student to his right, the guy looked down while that voice behind was straining, starting to give way. Finally it stopped. The hallway floor was about to crumble. He drew a breath. Steve turned slowly so that he wouldn't bump into Margaret's chest, to which she had her hands to. He drew a sigh, looked to his foot, that must've felt all the way down there, then to her. "Can you please just leave me alone?" he asked again. There's silence. Mostly everyone who'd been staring tried to rest within a book, or staring at something other, and while some did, their faces held so much absence. From Margaret came this unwanting to cry as her voice strained. It grew and grew . The students around her kept their heads down, and some people had decided to leave, giving looks to friends. Brushing past, one person's bag hit her. Steve's head hadn't moved. Her yell made people down by the entrance door turn with an excited confusion. Nobody had thought that Margaret had it in her to act this way."

Okay, so it's not perfect and over-the-top dramatic, and under laying that is the soullessness of it all. It's merely an exercise written in a draft- but get the point? Imagine of what's to come after this passage given this is only the beginning of Margaret's story?





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