Journal, Writing

Talking Map Fish & A Myriad of Themes

Another weekend, another post! It’s been both a long week full of to-do lists half-completed, and a short week in that it seemed to pass pretty quickly. Got a personalized rejection this week, which is one of those good-news/bad-news kind of things. It’s just been a week of dualities, hasn’t it? ^_^

At any rate, I’m enjoying a somewhat quiet weekend (currently watching Andy play Windwaker, since I’ve beaten it 2x, and he hasn’t–EVER! lol) which is a pleasant change of pace. I’d feel totally lazy, but I actually wrote a whole, complete story today! WHOA! And without pulling teeth, either! O.O Astonishing, I know. And what’s more, it’s under 3k. O_O This is slightly eerie… I feel like Rod Sterling is going to step in and start a monologue…

But to qualify: I’m not entirely certain that this story is going to be particularly useful. For starters, it may just be too abrupt, and I may not have executed the emotional impact necessary to make it work properly as a whole. Granted, this could be my post-writing “ugh” and once I wait a few weeks, it may seem better to me than it does now. Hey–at least it’s a finished draft!

This particular story (tentatively titled “The Queen’s Song” until I can think of something better) is the first of what I hope will be a long list of practice short stories written in the hopes of improving on some of my writing weakness. The main ones I’m seeing now, besides just general style and flow issues, are these:

1.) Conflict – I have only two settings for conflict in my stories, it seems: Unsolvable and Nonexistent. I can easily get my characters into such awful circumstances that I actually can’t think of a way for them to get out/survive/win. This would be great if I could solve their problems when it seems hopeless, but usually I just get stuck. Or I can write a story where there really isn’t anything for the character to do. Also: not good. So I’m trying to be more proactive about conflict, trying to practice coming up with character-driven plots, etc. Marion Zimmer Bradley has an interesting article on writing popular fiction, which–in regards to conflict–boils down to these three things: WORTHY GOAL, OVERWHELMING ODDS, SUCCESS BY ACTION. That last one is usually my challenge: problems are usually solved by something other than the character’s hard work/insight/skill/whathaveyou.

2) Length – Most of my “short” fiction is 7.5k+ which makes it just that much more challenging to place a story. Not only does it have to be really, really good–because it’s going to take up a lot more space in a magazine than a short one would, space a pro author with a sellable name could fill–but the number of markets that accept stories over 5k (or in my case, 7.5k+) drops significantly with each additional thousand words. I think ultimately, my interest lies in writing novels, but for the time being, it’d be great to work on writing shorter stories. (This is also dependent on coming up with short conflicts, also, since a novel-length idea incorrectly condensed into a short story just doesn’t often work.)

3) Voice – This is one of those things I laud in the short fiction I read for Apex, but is simultaneously one of those things I don’t think about too much in my own work. The narrative voice (and not just POV, but that is part of it) can make such a huge difference for a short story. When you’ve got a tightly limited space to tell a (hopefully) complex story, a strong narrative voice can really improve your mileage. A strong voice can–simply in its style–tell you a huge amount of back-story about your main character without ever having to address it directly. When you’re skrimping for words, this helps a ton.

In order to practice (and, I hope, strengthen) these three weaknesses of mine, I’ve dug up a list of themes (actually, more like just random words I thought sounded cool) I created way back at the tail-end of high school. There are about a hundred and fifty-one of these (as random as Fog, Remember This Smell, Amputation, Sunrise, etc.), and I figure I can create a conflict for each one of them. Presumably, if the conflicts are interesting enough (which is the goal), I’ll actually sit down and write a short (under 5k words) story. I’m just remembering that these are “practice” and I’m not holding myself responsible for getting them out circulating. Maybe I’ll come up with a few stories that are good enough in the low-key process. ^_^ At least I’ll be writing and practicing a lot, which is exactly what I need!

But that’s about all that’s going on here. ^_^ Yay for lazy weekends and getting some practice writing in!

(As a Thief Dilemma side note: I found my notes! YAY!! I’ve got two hours set aside for writing tomorrow, so I may just work on that! ^_^ I’m so glad I found them! They were in a notebook, just my older one that I thought didn’t have any relevant project info in it. Silly me!)

5 thoughts on “Talking Map Fish & A Myriad of Themes”

  1. Great post, Maggie! I hear you on having a hard time writing ‘shorter’ stories. I’m okay with the conflict thing though. Most of my stuff is drenched in it. LOL. You’ll get it. Go back to that old advice of what ‘disturbs’ YOU and what you would ‘fight’ for. I have faith in you.

    And good job on the new short! Every small victory is still a victory.

    1. Hi Lee! Thanks for the words of encouragement! And you’re right–every victory is still a victory. Even if this one is a little sloppy. ^_^

      Ah, the solid old advice! It’s one of those things I consciously hear, know is right, but don’t seem to be able to internalize. Actually, on a previous draft of this post, I mention that that’s part of my own personal difficulty writing conflicts: I’m very passive in life, and avoid conflict/drama/etc. like the plague, probably to a fault. I’m trying to examine that aspect of myself to determine how to benefit from it in my writing, rather than suffer for it. Part of it is unveiling itself as picking characters who are somewhat innocent bystanders–caught up in the conflict not by any fault of their own, but because they care deeply about bringing things back to how they should be (as in: fix the problem to get rid of the drama, which is what I tend to do when it’s around!). It’s worked before–I just need to meditate on it a little more, I think. ^_^

  2. That can work pretty well, good natured people/characters doing their best to restore balance. If you ever need an extra reader, let me know. I have a tight circle of friends I always run stuff by and it helps. Rock on, girl!

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