29 October 2008


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?


David E. Hughes said...

sounds like fun--sorry I had to miss it.

lesleylsmith said...

I have to say MileHiCon 2008 was one of the best cons I've been to. A bunch of my favorite authors were there including Connie Willis and Jim Butcher. The number of attendees was smaller so you got to interact more with authors, etc.
Some of the official panel questions seemed a bit off-the-mark but generally the panelists and audience interacted a lot so it didn't matter. And the price! Wow! It was like 10% the price of Colorado Gold or WorldCon. I think there must have been some kind of magic at work there.

lesleylsmith said...

As for short stories... I agree with Editor Betsy that character, setting, and plot need to work together to drive the story question to it's conclusion. I do strongly believe short stories need more than one simple arc, however. Betsy is right in that our 'more than one thing' needs to be multiple devices supporting the ultimate story question. I think that's something more advanced storytellers get into though...maybe beyond the scope of Short Story 101.

Barbara Martin said...

The idea of multiple devices to tell a short story appeals to me as I tend to find some boring or predictable.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Thanks for chiming in, Barbara. Yeah, it's something under constant discussion among this editorial staff.

lesleylsmith said...

Actually, Betsy, this is your 'big bang theory' of story telling when all the stuff collides together at the end of the story. :)

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Yeah, I guess you're right.