There is something magical about mythology. I have always been fascinated by Mythology. Mythology has really shaped the modern fairy tales and modern stories. One could say it is the cornerstone of fiction. I have been delving into different mythologies over the last year while doing research on my current works in progress. What I love most about mythology is that it teaches us about the human character – both good and bad. The other thing about mythology is that one never tires of it.
No matter how many times I read the tales of Greek mythology, I never tire of it. There is always something new that I learn to love about it. Over the last few months though I have been delving into ancient African mythology, Native American mythology and Romani (Gypsy) Mythology. All this mythology has been research for my works in progress.
Researching all this mythology has made me wonder about the writers of these early myths and legends. Except for the Greek mythology, many of these mythologists remain unnamed but yet the myths have lived on for centuries and for millennia. Many of these myths were created before writing. They were told around fireplaces and passed down generation to generation. Like with all tales that are spoken, they changed subtly over the years with each telling. One could almost say that all mythology is like chinese whispers: that childish game where you sit in a circle and whisper a tale into someone’s ear and then that person whisper’s into another’s ear and so on until the last person has to say aloud what was whispered. What comes out is very rarely what was first spoken. Perhaps this is why the writers remain unnamed. Instead of just one story-teller there were different story tellers with each generation.
Last year I met Chris Vogler who wrote The Writer’s Journey. He was one of the main key speakers at a writing conference. He gave a fascinating talk on Muses: where the idea of muses came from and who the muses are. He was also saying about how so many modern stories have their basis in mythology. It was a fascinating talk.
One can learn so much about a nation by studying their myths, legends and folklore. Every culture has their own mythology and their legends are how they identify themselves with both the inner and outer world. For me these tales are so much more interesting than flat history tomes. The history that these myths and legends tell of is rich in imagery and evocative in description.
Even the modern tales of magic, vampires, elves and dragons are built on the foundations of this mythology. Another thing that I find fascinating about mythology is that whether the myth is Greek, Roman, African, Russian, Celtic in origin; they have the same elements of good and evil. Who is to say what is fact or fiction? In mythology the reader gets to decide what is real or imaginary. To me that is very exciting.
What is your favourite mythic tale or legend?
What mythology would you like to know more of?
- The Myth Adventures of the Muses (manodogs.blogspot.com)
- Giveaway and Interview with P.J. Hoover! (yabookscentral.blogspot.com)
- Are all some or none of the mythologies true (wiki.answers.com)
- The king of Arthurian tales (guardian.co.uk)
- Tolkien’s Mythology for England and King Arthur (marklord.info)
- The Complete Idiot’s Guides to Horror (joannapary.wordpress.com)
- What can the ancient Greeks teach us? (guardian.co.uk)
- deep thoughts: labyrinths (stepanana.wordpress.com)
- The End of the Monomyth: We Need New Myths in the 21st Century (gauravonomics.com)
- The Unconscious – Rethinking the Unthinkable (epages.wordpress.com)
So you would know from a few posts this year that I am on a Short Story roll right now. I am loving turning an idea into a short story. At the moment I have so many ideas flying around in the Aether of my imagination that I am hard pressed to capture them all. So instead of turning all of them into potential full length fiction, I am turning some of them into short stories.
Above is the link to a wonderful short story competition about Magic. The contest will start from today, and run until May 31st, which should give you plenty of time to plan and get your submissions in.
Contest Part 1 – Create a magic system, using roughly the format outlined here. 2,000 words is the goal.
Contest Part 2 – Use that magic system to write a 5,000 to 10,000 word short story, and submit both it and the magic system to L.M. Stull. She’ll blind them and pass them on to the judges, and we’ll pick which ones are the winners.
Prizes – And the part I’m sure you’re all wondering about. We’ve got a $50 Amazon gift card for the first place winner, and a $25 card for second place.
So not only do you get a chance to practice your short story writing skills but you get to play with a new magic system that you have created. On the original contest link you will find a series of posts on magic systems and what they can consist of.
So let’s weave some story magic and tell a tale that is short, magical and entertaining. Win yourself an Amazon gift voucher.
Yesterday I sat in on a tweetchat on twitter. The link to the chat transcript is above. The subject was: The Premise.
So what is “The Premise” of your story?
Bill Johnson defines it as “the Foundation of Storytelling”. He breaks this down even further with:
“A story premise sets out a story’s core dramatic issue, the movement of that issue toward resolution, and the fulfillment that resolution sets up for the story’s audience.”
So to break that definition into even simpler terms:The Premise needs to have the Dramatic Issue of your story, the movement and the fulfilled resolution.
The chat started off discussing individual Premise’ for each story but then evolved into whether as writers we have an omni-Premise for our writing. I have been reflecting quite a bit on this chat and on this subject and came up with what The Premise means to me, my individual stories and my combined writing.
Do you always have a Premise figured out before you start writing a new story?
Sometimes I do but sometimes the Premise grows from something floating above my head to something solid. It grows as I talk to my characters and find out what their story is. The Premise then becomes their answer as to why I am telling their story.
Does this mean “The Premise” is unique to my story or my characters?
No. Many writers and many stories could have the same premise but this does not make them the same story. For instance if you took Romeo and Juliet’s Premise – ‘Great love defies even death’ – I can pull up at least one other great love story that has the same Premise: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Now beyond the fact that we know over 200 years separated Mr Shakespeare and Miss Bronte, we also know that these two stories are completely different from one another.
Do all stories have a Premise? and Does a story have just one Premise?
Yes. All stories have a Premise. The Premise is the core and the foundation of your story.
One Premise? This is a catch-22. You could argue that a story could have many different Premise’ but ultimately I believe there is one core Premise that is the foundation. Just like a building of brick, concrete or wood has only one foundation. A story is also a building, it is built from words and imagination.
Do I have an Omni-Premise that is the foundation of all my stories?
Your stories may all be very different whether that be in terms of genre, category or voice. But if you look at them even closer do you perhaps see a thread of thought, call it moral for argument’s sake, that twines its way through all your stories?
I realised that for myself there is an Omni-Premise that is at the heart of all my stories. Indeed I even find that same thread winding its way through my poetry as well.
My Omni-Premise is:
Trials and Tribulations are the diamond dust that polish a noble and pure soul into a shining gem that can survive the heat of any soul-fire and through that polishing it grows into the person it is meant to be.
I realised my stories are about those characters that are viewed as externally vulnerable but have an inner core of independence, refusing to be called “victim”, are always being tested by trials and tribulations. My stories are about survival and my main characters finding the courage to survive against all odds. Indeed it is only through their suffering that my characters find their true path as survivors. I am always drawn to the darker subjects because life is not a bed of roses but a life lived without trials ensures a soul that has not been tested for its true strength. I find my reading habits all have this Premise to them. Of course I read many types of stories being the bookworm that I am but the ones that I re-read and the ones that resonate deep within me all have this surviving in the heart of trouble/darkness/conflict. I guess you could say that though I am drawn to darker subjects…I look for the rainbow after every storm. Without storms there can be no rainbow.
So what is your Premise for the story you are working on? Do you have an Omni-Premise that threads its way through all of your writings? Are you drawn to certain types of stories? Why? What sort of stories do you want to tell?
© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning
- The Storyteller (taskbaarchitect.wordpress.com)
- What Is Your Story’s Premise? Editors Want to Know (joanyedwards.wordpress.com)
- For Novelists Who Hate Outlining (advancedfictionwriting.com)
- Plot, Setting or Premise? from Exchange of Realities (exchangeofrealities.com)
I have recently been stretching my narrative abilities through the medium of Short Story. This is a medium that I find very challenging. Not since High School have I really read or written any Short Stories. Last year at the RWNZ Writers’ Conference that I attended I specifically enrolled in a talk on the Short Story and on Novellas. Then this year I started looking at writing some Short Stories for competitions. This month though I am working on three Short Stories. One is for an anthology that I have been asked to contribute to. The other two are for writing competitions. So I thought today’s post would be focused on the Art Form of Short Story Writing.
What is the difference between a Short Story and a Novel?
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels. (Wikipedia)
A short story is more concise and tight in writing than a novel. Unlike a novel where there may be a number of incidences leading to one climax; a short story usually contains one incidence.
A novel can have multiple plot lines, different settings and a variety of characters. A short story has one plot that covers a short time period in one setting and fewer characters.
A novel is very structured in the traditional 5 point structure: Plot; Exposition, Complication, Climax, Resolution and Anti-Climax. A short story on the other hand follows a much looser structure. You have a limited space to write in so often the beginning of the story is started abruptly and often in the middle of action. The Short Story still has a Climax/Crisis/Turning Point. The ending of a Short Story is abrupt and open sometimes having a moral turn to the story. Short Stories that follow a strong moral or ethical theme are called Parables or Fables.
Now we come to the Length of a Short Story. The classic definition of a Short Story dictates that it should be read in one sitting. When talking Word Count though there are varying definitions. Often the consensus is that a short story is between 7000 and 9000 words. Once a short story gets to a count of 15 000 – 20 000, it starts becoming a Novella. Stories with less than 1000 words are called Flash Fiction.
The History of The Short Story
Short Stories find their birth in oral story telling. All the ancient cultures of this world have a base in oral story telling. Stories that were told to one another to pass down truths and teach lessons. These stories were the fodder for early imaginations. As children short stories are the first stories we come to hear, read and love. Whether we call them Fairy Tales, Bedtime Stories or Fables; these are all Short Stories. Think of ghost stories you heard sitting around camp fires or the stories your parents told you to calm you when you woke from a nightmare. In contemporary times, magazines are filled with Short Stories. Radio brought another form of media to the art of Short Stories. Short pieces are pieces of fiction to wet our imaginative taste buds.
These are the points to write a successful Short Story:
- Have a very clear theme but Beware of being Preachy
- Have a very strong Protagonist with clear characteristics and antagonist and a maximum of 2 other characters should secondary characters be needed
- Hook your readers with a powerful first paragraph
- Immediately grab the reader’s attention with an action or a conflict point
- Strong POV – Choose 1 point of view to write from
- Stick to one tense: Either Past Tense or Present Tense
- Decide if your Narrator is going to be subjective or objective
- Write tight and meaningful dialogue
- Be very concise in your setting: Include just enough detail to put your reader into the story but make sure your detail only adds to the story
- Set up the plot very clearly before writing
- Beginning – Start with a situation of conflict
- Middle – Present the problems (Rising Action) that occur from this situation
- End – Solve the problem. Keep the reader’s suspense by revealing the final point as late as you can.
- Create Conflict and Tension quickly
- Build this Conflict/Tension to a Crisis Point/Climax
- Find a Resolution by showing your character has learnt and will grow from the Conflict you threw them into
- Use vivid imagery
- Use your words like a man uses water in a desert: very sparingly and with clear intent
Below are authors that were successful at both the Art form of Short Stories and Novels:
Charles Dickens, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Nathaniel Hawthorne, Virginia Woolf, Boleslaw Prus, Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, P.G. Wodehouse, H.P. Lovecraft and Ernest Hemingway
Like with any medium of story telling you need to immerse yourself in Short Stories to be a successful Short Story Writer. Read Short Stories. Read some fairy tales or fables. Take note of what points the various authors use to make that Short Story a success.
What have I learnt from Short Stories?
I have found that dipping my pen back into Short Story telling is teaching me to be concise and to the point in my writing. It is teaching me the value of a gripping start to a story. It is teaching me to have a very clear POV. IT is also teaching me the essential tool of having FOCUS in a story. I have even been editing one of my full length novels with all the above points in mind. I think that the lessons from writing a short story translate perfectly into a Suspense / Thriller or Adventure story. Your words and sentences have to be short and sharp. You have to connect with the reader in a very immediate way that is very visceral in impact. This is definitely a medium of writing that I am going to continue to further hone my writing craft.
Have you written any Short Stories? What challenges did you face?
Stretch your creative muscle this week by writing a Short Story. You may just find that this Art Form teaches you essential points about writing that you have missed before now.
© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning
- Start Writing Better Short Stories Today (pittsburghflashfictiongazette.com)
- Writing a Short Story (englishelxni1.wordpress.com)
- Does a Short Story Have a Three-Act Structure? (advancedfictionwriting.com)
- Short Stories vs. Novels (inthewritemind.wordpress.com)
- A brief survey of the short story (guardian.co.uk)
- Confessions of a Reluctant Short Story Writer (alwayscoffee.wordpress.com)
- Learn the Format of Short Stories (brighthub.com)
Today’s Photo of the day was the 3rd in this series of 3. With the assistance of my creative assistant, Jazz (my Papillon Puppy), I managed to finally capture the shot I wanted. This series of shots got me thinking about today’s Thursday Tips post.
TODAY’S NEWS – THURSDAY TIPS!
GET IT NOW!!!
COPIES ARE SELLING OUT!!!
RHYTHM. SPACE. TIMING. SERENDIPITY.
A story is composed of many parts just as a photograph is composed of many elements. For a photograph you need a subject, a tool (camera), a placing in space, rhythm and perfect timing. For a story you need a plot, characters, a tool (imagination), a setting, rhythm and perfect timing.
So today’s Thursday tips is focused on: Rhythm, Space, Timing and Serendipity. What do I mean by “Rhythm”? There are 2 types of rhythm that I am thinking of: Musical Rhythm and Poetic Rhythm.
Noun: A strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound.
Now you may argue that you do not have an ear for music. You do not realise that your own body has a perfect musical rhythm of its own: Heart beats. Yes. Heart Beats. Now close your eyes, place your finger at your pulse point and listen to the rhythm as you feel the drum beat of your life’s blood flowing through your body. Now if your heart’s rhythm was slightly off, too quick or too slow or skipping a beat, there would be a problem with the way your body functioned. This problem could even be fatal in the worst case scenario. In the same way, this can be an allegory for the importance of having cadence and rhythm in the construction of your story. If one word is not placed in the right space on your page the beat will be off.
Noun: a regularly recurring sequence of events, actions,
or processes : the measured flow of words and phrases
in verse or prose as determined by the relation of long
and short or stressed and unstressed syllables.
You may think you know nothing about poetry but if you were a child at some stage, you will know all about poetic rhythm. I am talking about the wonder and simplicity of Nursery Rhymes. Now I am sure if I ask you to close your eyes for a moment and think of a nursery rhyme from your childhood you will be able to come up with more than a handful. So why is this poetic rhythm so vital to your story? It is vital for the same reason that it took you less than a minute to recall more than a handful of nursery rhymes. Rhythm is strongly intertwined with memory. If something has a catchy rhythm, it tends to be locked in the vaults of your memory bank. But the connection and resonance of the “Rhythm” allows you to re-access this vault at a moment’s notice. So I ask you, what is common to successful stories throughout the ages? They are a perfect synchronicity of musical rhythm and poetic rhythm. The sentences have a resonant beat to them and they flow easily through your mind. The words are perfectly placed and sequenced. The sentences are sharp and neat. The punctuation is perfectly placed, accenting and pausing through the rhyme of the words on a page.
Space and Timing
The other two vital elements to a perfect story is setting (space) and timing. A setting can make or break the story. At times a setting can make or break a genre. Setting is an oft-forgotten but vital element in a successful story. Just as space and setting is vital to the perfect camera shot, setting is not something to be overlooked. So if you have found yourself concentrating too much on plot and character remember to include setting in your focus. After all, your characters need “Somewhere” to have a story. They cannot be in a Vacuum throughout the whole story.
Now I come to one of my favourite elements in a story: Timing. There are two types of timing in a story. The first is the Story’s sequence of events and the second is the timing in the placing of chapters, paragraphs, openings and endings. The timing of events in a sequence will make your story a well-loved hit with your readers or on the other hand the incorrect timing in sequence can alter the story at best and confuse / lose your reader at the worst. You cannot rush the sequence in your plot and you cannot go too slowly. You need to use the second type of timing I spoke of to set the correct sequence. At the same time, you cannot spend an uneven amount of time on any element of your plot. Too quick an opening may leave the reader floundering for a life raft but be too tired in the end to bother. Too slow an opening could bore your reader. Even though you may have put your best part of the story in the middle of your plot, the reader needs to still get there so time your story with care. Don’t rush your plot too quickly that you lose your reader and that your story becomes a blur in their mind. Don’t slow your plot too much or your reader will miss the suspense of the moment. Don’t rush your characters through their dialogue or accelerate their development – your reader will find them unrealistic and have no connection to the story. Don’t go too slow with your characters as by the time you have got your character to the next day, your reader will probably have fallen asleep.
Serendipity is the tie of these 3 elements: Rhythm, Space (Setting) and Timing. I love the word “Serendipity”:
Serendipity ~ the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way….
Isn’t this the perfect way to describe a story that will imprint itself on your reader’s memories?
I leave you with my Poem for the day inspired by my photograph..
Flying Free on the Wings of Time
If you rush through Life,
Moments will pass by in a blur;
If you take things too slowly,
You will miss the Moments.
Like a Photograph
Life is all about being in the Moment:
Perfect Rhythm of Space. Timing. Serendipity.
~ Kim Koning ~
© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning
- Rhythms (thwaits.wordpress.com)
- A brain systems visualisation tool (irishscience.wordpress.com)
- Postaday/ Postaweek 2011 ~ Blogging Challenge (dragonflyscrolls.wordpress.com)
- Come Up With the Perfect Rhyme Every Time With VersePerfect (makeuseof.com)
- Turn Your Rhyme into a Byline (write4kids.com)
- Writer’s Tip #42: Avoid Inadvertent Rhyme (worddreams.wordpress.com)
- What if We Used Poetry to Teach Computers to Speak Better? (usnews.com)
Da dum, Da dum…The drums start rolling in the background. The whine of a lone flute plays out its haunting notes.. All of a sudden the eery music stops and the deafening roar of silence fills your screen.
The night is dark. Not even a full moon lights up the gloom. A twig breaks. Someone is out there. Fear raises all the tiny hairs on my arms. I shiver with the adrenalin. Halting foot-steps are the only sound. I pray that my hiding place, in the hollow of the old tree stump, is not betrayed. My lungs are bursting with the trapped air. My heart beats are pounding enough to drown all hearing. The world has gone silent except for my pounding heart. Another twig snaps. I see a faint outline of a darkening just past the stump. A shadow? Fear takes over and every limb in my body fights my stillness. I want to run. I have become prey. The darkened shape moves. It grows. My heart threatens to leave my twitching body and fly into the darkness of escape. The darkened form takes shape. It becomes a large hand encased in black leather. The fingers are long and hypnotize me. I push myself as far back into the hollow as the dead wood will allow me. My eyes are locked on the hand. It moves forward, seeking, towards my throat…My breath now held tightly, the edges of my vision start blurring. The hand creeps closer and closer. Searching. Just as I can almost feel the long fingers close around my throat; my vision fades. The last thing I know is the cold smooth leather touching my throat. I pass out.
After reading the above, how do you feel? Do you feel tense? Did your heart beat increase? Did your breath become shallow? If you answered yes to any of these questions then the paragraph was a successful foray into suspense. To be fair, you have no idea who the main character is. You do not know their agenda nor do you have any answers as to why they are being hunted. All you know is the little that I have chosen to tell you. It is night. There is no moon. The scene takes place outdoors, where there are trees and fallen twigs on the ground. There are two characters in the scene. A person hiding in the hollow of an old tree stump and someone else following or searching for the hiding person. You do not know if the person that is hiding is a protagonist or an antagonist. All you do know is that you want the “hunter” to miss the hiding place. Then the scene changes and the “hunter” seems to have found the hiding place. A hand reaches into the hiding place. The only identifying marks are that the fingers are long and the “hunter” appears to be wearing a black leather glove. Do you hold your breath as the “hunted” one does? Are you sitting on the edge of your seat? You are left with questions. The “hunted” passes out. Do “they” pass out from strangulation or fainting from fear? Do you want to find out more? Are you filled with questions and frustrated to find out the answers?
This is SUSPENSE. This is what every chapter in your story arc should have. Suspense is the vital element in every story that locks your reader into wanting more. Suspense is not just about “being hunted” but it is about “holding back vital information”. You do not always need to clue a reader in on every part of the story. In fact by only giving them tiny amounts of a story, you are goading them into reading more. You have successfully captured their curiosity by intriguing them, even frustrating them by holding back. Very few readers will be able to resist the temptation to read on from this point. Now, you have their attention!
When developing plot-lines and story arcs, sometimes you can forget that at the heart of the story there has to be a burning reason for the reader to want to go on. This burning reason is the element of suspense. Script-writers and movie directors have the advantage of sound and music to add suspense and set a tense scene. As a writer, you also have tools at your disposal. You have the descriptive powers of words. You can paint a scene in a reader’s mind with words. Suspense is not painting too much of the picture so that the reader does not need to use imagination. As writers we have more power than a scriptwriter or a movie director. We have the power of imagination at our disposal. Not just our own imagination but the imaginations of our reader. Use this tool! Use the reader’s imagination to build suspense into your story arcs.
You can also build suspense into your character arcs by not revealing too much about the character’s backstory or agenda. Mystery is an irresistible temptation to everyone. You can build suspense into your character arc by giving away snippets of information. Hold back the key elements of your character’s agenda and personality until the reader is drawn so far into your story that there is now no chance of them turning back or halting the adventure. Thriller and suspense writers have this talent at building suspense and it seems to come across effortlessly as a tool in their respective genres. But just because you may not be writing a thriller or suspense, it does not mean that you cannot use those same tools to build suspense.
There is a reason that so many top-selling books and authors belong to the suspense and thriller genres. As macabre as it may be, everyone loves being “scared”. This does not mean that crime is thrilling. What exactly do people love about being “scared”? In my view, I think people love the feel of the adrenalin coursing through their bodies. Their senses seem to become keener. Their reflexes seem to become sharper. In short, whether you are scared or excited your body has the same physiological symptoms. That is why people think they love being “scared”. That is also why thriller and suspense novelists and script-writers, the world over, are so popular and so successful as a result of that popularity with the masses.
So, next time, before you start writing your next chapter or delving into your character’s agenda: remember that rush of adrenalin. Remember that mystery is the answer to hooking your reader. Use your reader’s imagination along with your skill with words and you will be building suspense that will enthrall you and your reader. Remember to hold elements back. Temptation is wanting to know more about the mysterious and the forbidden. Imagination is a powerful tool to build suspense: not your imagination but using your reader’s imagination to draw them into your scene.The vital information that every good suspense/thriller writer knows: withhold vital information and only give out tastes of a scene or a character. Your reader will thank you. More importantly, your reader will keep on coming back for more.
All rights reserved © Kim Koning.
- Q&A with editor Thomas R. Moore (Part 1) (gointothestory.com)
- Authors Should Celebrate Their Successes (bhplnjbookgroup.blogspot.com)
- What Does Your Blog Writing Style Say About You? (jeffkorhan.com)
- Cosmo’s Book Club: Meet Your Next Must-Read (cosmopolitan.com)
- 10 Writing Lessons From Spaghetti Westerns (writinghood.com)
- Ex-Position (cadsmith.wordpress.com)
- Make Your Story Sing: Learn from songwriters how to tell stories in just a few words (stevebuttry.wordpress.com)
- Practicing what I preach (jainefenn.com)