And the conference season has come to a close, at least for this editor, at least until spring. Mile Hi Con is a small regional convention, but we had a decent writers track and top-notch authors like Carrie Vaughn, Connie Willis, Jim Butcher, vampire writers Jeanne Stein, Mario Acevedo, and David Dvorkin, Hugo Nominee Paulo Bagigalupi, Warren Hammond, author of the gritty KOP series...and the list goes on. It's inexpensive (something like $40 for three days) and they do a great job at making it easy for participants--panels don't require as much prep for a busy author.
I attended a great panel, Short Story 101, more fondly known as "Clarion in Five Minutes." When the authors were asked what is the best lesson they can impart to the audience in just a few minutes, they unilaterally agreed:
Ask the story question on the first page; answer the story question on the last page.
Sounds simple, right?
Well, you'd be surprised how many stories I read that have me wondering at page three, Writing's nice, but what's the story about?
One other thing struck me. Lesley and I in particular have always believed short stories should be about more than one thing. This panel disagreed, stating emphatically that the short form only has room for one question at a time. So I thought about that and I decided that maybe what Lesley and I are driving at is that multiple devices should support one story question. Backpedaling? Maybe. It is election season. :)
She can chime in here on this topic as well, later, but I believe character, setting, and plot should all drive the story question to its logical conclusion (ironic twists notwithstanding). As well, stories are often more interesting if unlikely, conflicting elements combine to support the story question.
Thoughts on this, anyone?