20 March 2008

interesting advice

Found via fellow blogger and writer Josephine Damian's blog:

quoted from a crime writer named Benjamin Schultz (RIP), in particular about short stories, edited here for brevity.

...Generally, they are time-bound tales; the clock is ticking; something terrible must be averted. I use time to compress my stories, to give them shape and limit. As such they function as mini-thrillers. Pace is very important. You have to lay out the challenge, introduce the protagonist and get moving. Without that, the heart will not race. Many stories begin with the hero ALREADY engaged in the central action of the story...

...Time also provides the pressure for Hemingway’s dictum “Courage is grace under pressure.” What is that “grace?” For me, and my characters, it’s the ability to keep a clear head and fashion effective actions when there are very high stakes, and “failure is not an option.” It’s also the ability to keep a clear moral compass, when the gales of seduction and danger threaten to throw you of course. That’s a tall order for twenty pages. So economy of language is important; you don’t have any words to waste. Misdirection to the reader to preserve suspense is often the result of ambiguity in the text. Ambiguity is achieved by precision of expression. What is revealed and what is omitted, and how that is done. These were elements I had to learn and relearn as I wrote short stories; pace, economy, precision...

...The major dangers of genre fiction are cliché and boredom. A genre’s conventions are a contract. Like all contracts, they tell you what is the MINIMUM you can expect from the tale – not the maximum. The minimum is a Sisyphean reading experience – you push the same tale with the same characters up that damn hill. Style, a unique way of telling the story, provides freshness and vitality too not-so-novel plots or characters. For me, I try to use dialogue and metaphors to make the story fresh; to put memorable lines in my characters’ mouths; provide resonant images for the readers’ minds, and pithy insights into the human condition. When successful, these tools create a depth to the story without adding length or slowing the pace...

2 comments:

Bernita said...

"they tell you what is the MINIMUM you can expect from the tale – not the maximum."
Tht is, of course, brilliant.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

nice way to put it, eh?