20 March 2018

try fail cycles

Try/fail cycles are a plotting mechanism. They are very effective. The shortest short stories basically consist of one try/fail cycle: the protagonist tries to solve a problem and either fails or succeeds. Longer short stories can have two, three, or even more try/fail cycles. A novel chapter generally has at least one try/fail cycle, and often multiple try/fail cycles.

There are two versions of the try/fail cycle:

  • No, and...
  • Yes, but...

In the first case, No, and..., the protagonist doesn't solve the problem and something happens to make it worse. This increases the drama in the story, and, consequently the tension in the reader.
In the second case, Yes, but..., the protagonist does solve the problem but then some other problem happens.

If you ever watch television shows (do we still call them that?), you're familiar with the try/fail cycle. Generally there's a, No, and..., right before the first commercial break, right before the second commercial break, the third commercial break (you get the idea). Right before the end of the show there's usually a, Yes, but..., setting up the next episode.
This pattern works great for novel chapters.

Depending on your market, you probably want to end your short story with a plain Yes or No. Most readers like things to be resolved. But, it's up to you. :)

Send us your try/fail-laden short story!

14 March 2018

Editor Interview

Check out our Electric Spec editor interview over at Blackbird Publishing: here!

13 March 2018

Gaiman on libraries, reading, daydreaming

Excellent Author Neil Gaiman gave an amazing lecture on "Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming" in 2013 that was reprinted in The Guardian. Some highlights include
  • Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading.
  • And the second thing fictton does is to build empathy.
  • You're also finding out ...The world doesn't have to be like this. Things can be different.
  • Fiction can show you a different world.
  • But libraries are about freedom. Freedom to read, freedom of ideas, freedom of communication. They are about eduction (which is not a process that finishes the day we leave school or university), about entertainment, about making safe spaces, and about access to information.
  • Libraries really are the gates to the future.
  • We all -- adults and children, writers and readers -- have an obligation to daydream. We have an obligation to imagine.
The whole article is really wonderful. Read it here.

06 March 2018

from Author Haynes

We're still enjoying the recent issue of Electric Spec. One of our favorite stories was "Waiting on a Sunny Day" by Michael Haynes. Here, the author shares some thoughts...

This story started as part of a weekly story-writing contest on the Liberty Hall website (which, alas, has since shut down). I don’t recall what the writing prompt was for that week’s contest, but I remember being pleased with how the first draft turned out. Like more stories than I care to admit to, it ended up sitting around on my hard drive for a while before I made revisions to it about a year later and started sending it out.

What happened a few months later is what made this story one that will always stand out in my memory. My father fell on an icy sidewalk outside his house and when he was taken to the hospital for what turned out to be a broken leg, we were told that there were -- I no longer remember the term… spots? -- on his pre-operative chest X-rays. The surgery still had to be done, but in the next few days, he was diagnosed with advanced cancer.
His health was a bit up and down over the next few months -- we held a birthday party for him and his spirits were high during that -- but mostly the trend was down.

And the end came with a fairly-sharp decline. On a Saturday in mid-April, three days before he passed away, I sat with him for a good portion of the day. I read to him from a film magazine, and I read him a story I had written. This story. He’d always been proud of my writing and liked to talk to me about the stories I’d had published. He told me -- and I’m not sure if it was this day or a bit earlier -- that I should keep writing, that he thought I had talent that I shouldn’t pass up.

So when I think of this story, I think of my father, and that it was the last story we got to share. I’m glad it was a good one and I'm glad the story has found a home.

Thanks, Michael. We're glad the story found a home as well. Thanks for sharing!

28 February 2018

We're live!

Huzzah! The fabulous new February 2018 issue of Electric Spec is live!

feb 2018 cover

Thank you everyone who contributed including our authors, our cover artist, and the editorial and technical staff.

Woo hoo!

27 February 2018

from Author Lesley

In the fabulous February 28, 2018 issue we're excited to share with you "Home is Where the Blue Plastic Porcupine Is" by Kiera Lesley. She shared a few words with us...

I'm fascinated by transitional living spaces and the things people do to make themselves comfortable in a new home.

It's always a bit eerie, moving into a newly empty space - particularly if you know you, too, will likely have to move on from that space soon. You need to walk that line between making it comfortable for yourself, but also making it easy to pack down and leave, because you won't be staying there long.

How people go about that varies and I love the little rituals people fall into. Some people make their bed before they do anything else - including unpacking boxes. Other people make a lot of noise, change the locks, or burn scented things to chase out the remnants of the old inhabitants.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more obvious to me than in the military where, combined with natural superstition derived from the random violence of war, people get very practiced at packing down and setting up in a new living space on short notice.

I liked having the opportunity to play with these ideas in this piece.

What would nesting and a home base look like when you're very far from home? What is the first priority for settling in? What unspoken codes of conduct and coping methods would develop between people who live this way but may never meet?

And what small, ridiculous things might you cling to in order to make a place feel like home to you?

Thanks a lot, Kiera! Very interesting!

And be sure to check out all the stories tomorrow, February 28, 2018 at Electric Spec!

20 February 2018

from Author Lowd

We're excited to share with you "Anger is a Porcupine, Sadness is a Fish" by Mary E. Lowd in the fabulous February 2018 issue of Electric Spec. The author shares a few words about the story...

This is a story about feelings -- how useless I feel when I'm sad; how dangerous I feel when I'm angry; and how terrified I am that if I say something too true, that the power of the truth could destroy everything around me.

There's a scene in the television show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where the main character's friends stand around her in a circle, confronting her with something they’ve learned about her past. She’s so scared and cornered that she lashes out and tears down each and every one of her friends by saying the cruelest things she can. It is the scariest thing I've ever seen in video. Watching this woman tear apart her friends felt like watching one of my literal nightmares, pulled straight out of my sleeping head and plastered on the screen.

The lead character of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is flawed and complicated and even kind of horrible, but she's the lead, and you come to love her and identify with her anyway through the magic of narrative. So many male characters are allowed to be so much worse, and yet they remain protagonists, sometimes beloved icons. When women characters go off the rails, they're written out of the show, and you never see what happens to them next. But in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the woman who went off the rails is the lead, and she goes right on with her life. When I went back and re-watched that scene, I realized that all of the cruel things she said -- they were true. They were said cruelly, but they were truths her friends probably needed to hear. A man can shoot people in the head and still be the iconic hero of a beloved trilogy of movies, but a woman must fear telling the truth, in case she doesn't do it nicely enough.

"Anger is a Porcupine, Sadness is a Fish" is a story about the crippling fear and anger that I've felt at times, and how I'm still afraid -- in spite of the healing powers of watching Crazy Ex-Girlfriend -- that if I speak the wrong truth, or say the truth in the wrong way, I could accidentally destroy my entire world.

Thanks, Mary! Very interesting!