Elements of the Short Story

Characters

As a novice writer, I searched for some information regarding character development. I’d heard rumors that the best stories were character-driven, and the better you knew your main characters, the better you’ll be able to write believable dialogue and action.

Wow!

If you’ve ever googled, ‘character development,’ or main characters, I’m positive you found a wealth of ‘Character Questionnaires,’ in your search.

I think I have a total of twenty-two of these questionnaires saved to my computer, but I do not use any one of them – instead, I created a list of questions for myself, by taking certain questions I found to be key from the myriad of online offerings.

So, here are the questions I use when I’m creating a new character. Please note that I have different processes for the short story versus a novel. While the characters in your short story should be three-dimensional, it isn’t essential to study them, create a backstory, or know their entire life history.

(But remember – tailor your questions to what works for YOU!!

  1. What is your character’s full name?
    1. Where did the name come from?
      1. Was it the Mom’s idea?
      1. Or the Father’s?
      1. Are they names for anyone who is deceased?
      1. For a family member
  2. Is your character pretty? Ugly? Beautiful? Will the reader be able to see this person perform the actions you write?
  3. Was your character’s childhood a good one?
  4. Male role characteristics or Female role characteristics OR neither?
  5. Unique gesture
  6. Physical attributes and words
  7. Create a Pinterest board for visualization
  8. Specific genre of music or books or movies?
  9. Is this character your protagonist or antagonist?
  10. The most important goal this character wishes to achieve.

In my opinion, for a short story, you aren’t interested in writing a lot of background. You are usually limited to a certain word count, so unless a piece of information is essential to the plot, it DOESN’T GO IN THE DRAFT.

Depending on the length of your short story, there could be several complex characters. In this case, and that of a novel, you would study characters and their interactions more fully.

We’ll explore that further in next Monday’s blog entry.

Until then,

~Mustang Patty~

Mustang Patty Presents

The Idea by Erik Bork

The entire book title: The Idea, the seven elements of a viable story for screen, stage, or fiction.

I will be giving away a copy of this book sometime in the next week.

Would YOU like to add it to your library?

Simply send me an email: patty@mustangpatty1029.com and tell me how

you think this book would help You and Your Process.

Everyone who sends me an email will be eligible for the prize:

A paperback of the book sent to you at your home address.


I added this book to my reference library a few years ago because I wanted to understand how other people came up with their ideas. As always, I doubted myself. I find it strange that my ideas come to me in the shower, or as I’m just starting to come out of a deep sleep. (I’ve since learned that I’m very lucky to have this happen.)

In Bork’s book, he stresses how finding an idea is the most important part of the writing process – in fact, it’s the FIRST part of any writing project.

Developing the idea fully is key to understanding where you want to take your storyline, but all too often, writers rush right through development and simply start writing.

Bork sites how lack of understanding the idea and sufficiently developing it can kill a project. So, he outlines the seven key ingredients in stories that have a chance of selling and appealing to a wide audience.

They are as follows:

  • Relatable
  • Original
  • Believable
  • Life-Altering
  • Entertaining
  • Meaningful
  • and Solving the Problem

          Bork analyzes each of these key ingredients and how they are important to the premise of the central idea of your writing project.

          I found the book to be well-written and easy to follow. I know that after reading it, I found myself analyzing my idea before I began to write. It simply no longer makes sense to pursue a project that won’t go anywhere.

5 Stars *****

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Introduction to the Parts of Speech

A few years back, I came across an excellent find in a Used Bookstore. It was in an almost-new condition, and it’s a high school Grammar and Composition textbook.

So, I will be using this book as one of my references as we work our way through the Parts of Speech.

To start, I want to list the Parts of Speech – many of you may remember them from high school English, or early college classes.

They are:

  • The Noun
  • The Pronoun
  • The Adjective
  • The Verb
  • The Preposition
  • The Conjunction
  • and
  • The Interjection

I think it is essential to review these terms because, as a writer who wants to use language to convey your meaning, you will need to understand these terms when you’re building meaningful sentences and paragraphs.

Next Wednesday, we will kick off the series with a discussion about NOUNS.

Until next time, (FRIDAY)

~Mustang Patty~

Monday Blogs Moving Forward

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. So, starting today, my Monday blogs will be devoted to Short Story Elements. On Fridays, I will be highlighting resource material on various aspects of the short story. Mondays will follow up with information I’ve gleaned from different places.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, it is also essential for you to understand the elements of story building. The information I give you in these blogs will help you to maximize the impact of your stories.

I will post blogs featuring:

  • Characters
  • Viewpoints
  • Story structure
  • Finding your Voice
  • And much, much more…

This coming Wednesday, I will begin my new Grammar series.

So, until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Your Resource Guide

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. So, starting today, my Friday blogs will be devoted to Writing Resources. If you’ve ever googled ‘books on writing,’ or scrolled through Amazon’s offerings, you know there are hundreds of books written on various aspects of the craft. I’ve decided to give my readers a short synopsis of my favorite resource books, and more than likely comments about the books I didn’t find to be particularly helpful.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, it is also essential for you to understand the industry standard for your presentation. Utilizing resource books such as Style Guides and other references will help you find your voice.

I have a page for Resources on my website, and I will add the books I blog about to my site with a reference where you can find out what I thought and whether I recommend it.

(Hopefully, this will help you build your resource library.)

I will look at writing books featuring:

  • The Short Story
  • Creating Believable Characters
  • Plot Development
  • Building tension within your story

And much, much more…

Check back on Monday when I introduce the new format for that day of the week,

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Wednesdays Moving Forward

As some of you may know, I’m reformatting my blog entries. First of all, I will be concentrating on the Short Story, and how mastering those elements can help you get ready to write a novel. It will also give you a smaller canvas to experiment with different styles, points of view, settings, etc.

So, starting today, my Wednesday blogs will be devoted to Grammar. I feel it’s important that you realize that whether you are writing a short story or a novel, or an essay or memoir, understanding Grammar will allow you to present your idea in a way that your readers understand.

While the basic idea for your story is vital, so is your ability to structure your prose with basic Grammar and style.

In the past, I’ve written several blog entries on the comma, the period, and the ellipsis. Now, on Wednesdays, we will look at the other facets of Grammar.

You can look forward to information about:

  • The Parts of Speech
  • The structure of a sentence
  • Punctuation
  • And much more

Check back on Friday when I introduce that category,

Until next time,

 

~Mustang Patty~

 

Finding Focus

Recently, I was chastised for taking too big of a bite for my blog. My writing coach let me in on a little secret. It is hard (or even impossible) for one writer to cover ALL facets of writing. He urged me to find a niche and concentrate on that.

 

Effective today, August 24, 2020, I’m changing the tagline of my blog from ‘Let’s talk about writing’ to ‘Writing the Short Story.’

 

For my future posts, I’ll concentrate on the facets of the short story. After all, it only makes sense. I curate at least one Anthology of short stories every year. I believe the short story is an essential step in becoming the best writer you can be.

 

We will talk about:

    • grammar and editing as it applies to the short story
    • elements of the short story
    • strengthening your MC within the parameters of the short story
    • Anything I come across to share with you about how you can write and publish your short stories.

On that note, I would like to invite short story writers, of all levels, to submit their stories for inclusion in:

the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology

 

Please see www.mustangpatty1029.com for additional details.

Join the Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/886405368439388/

 

The deadline for submission is

October 1, 2020,

and the entrance fee per story is $25 to help with the printing and shipping costs.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing your short story~

 

Until next time,

 ~Mustang Patty~

Mustang’s Guide to Desk References

As the main contributor to ‘Mustang Patty Talks Writing’ (okay, the Only contributor,) I thought I would share the resources I believe every writer should have at their fingertips. I know I’m not the only one who has an extensive library of writing books, but the HUGE choice of these tombs is daunting for some folks.

So, which books do I find essential? (They sit on a shelf just over my desk.)

Dictionaries            

I bought a box set of Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Vocabulary Builder several years ago. Each volume is an excellent size to keep on your desk and have at your beck and call.

  1. Dictionary – Spelling – You know when the word just doesn’t look right – (DO NOT always TRUST any spell-checker.) Ensure you are using the word correctly by looking up definitions.
  2. Thesaurus – Finding synonyms, so you’re not always using the same word within your text. The use of the thesaurus is a tremendous help.
  3. Vocabulary Builder – The Merriam Webster edition helps me by introducing new words and quizzing me on their use. Marketed as a guide to preparing for standardized tests like the SATs and ACTs, the book is written in an easy-to-understand manner.

Style Guide(s)          

I have several.

  1. My favorite is ‘Elements of Style 2017,’ because it is organized in such a way, I can always find what I’m looking for.
  2. ‘The Chicago Manual of Style,’ is used by the majority of publications, so I own both a hard copy, as well as subscribe to the online resource.
  3. ‘APA Style Guide’ is another resource – each of these guides has a specific type of writing outlined. ALWAYS check with any submission guidelines to determine which guide is used by the place you are submitting stories.      

Editing:                   

I cannot stress enough how important it is to EDIT your work before you share it ANYWHERE. Nothing will make a writer look sloppy and amateurish than spelling errors, obvious grammatical mistakes, or missing words.                            

(I’m a judge for an online site and a teacher of Creative Writing, which is one of the biggest downfalls of the beginning writer. Nothing will make you look like an amateur when you submit a work that hasn’t been edited.)                                 

If had to choose a favorite resource. In that case, I probably refer to ‘Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors’ by Kathy Ide.

Grammar:               

The guide I keep on my desk and I’ve needed to replace time or two is ‘The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need’ by Susan Thurman. The book is easy to understand and user-friendly. (I find this book so useful, it is what I give away when I do Author Takeovers on Facebook.)

Character Development:

Since your characters’ development is a crucial element of your storyline, there are LOTS of references out there. My personal favorite is ‘Creating Character Arcs,’                         by K. M. Weiland.

Plot Development:

Along with character development, it is imperative for your storyline to be fully developed. Frequently, your original idea needs to be fleshed out, and taking the time to read some information helps me a lot. My favorite book for inspiration in this matter is the Writer’s Digest book, ‘Crafting Novels & Short Stories.’

The foreword is written by James Scott Bell, who writes excellent guides about story structure and he is considered one of the best Writing Coaches around.

Guidance and Inspiration:

I have several books by my favorite authors, which are mostly their thoughts on the writing process. These non- fiction books are wonderful when I’m experiencing a ‘block,’ or when I need to be reminded why I spend so much time in my den, pecking on keys.

                                  ‘On Writing,’ by Stephen King

                                  ‘On Writers and Writing,’ by Margaret Atwood

                                  ‘The Book on Writing,’ by Paula Larocque

These are just a few of the books I turn to while writing. I hope you will consider this list to be just the beginning of your search for the right guides.

Not everyone will find the same books as me to be a useful resource.

SO, if you have a favorite book on writing and the process that I haven’t listed, please leave a comment, and share your secret!

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

The Essay

Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to present a few of the different types of writing. In my last blog, I shared a chapter in my memoir. Over the next few blogs, I will present the different types of essays.

In my creative writing classes, I strongly encourage my students to learn the assortment of prose and write one of each. I think this strengthens your prose, as well as the ability to tell and show stories in a different light.

In my last post, I presented one of the chapters from my memoir. The writing was in the first person and related to an event in my life.

Today, I’m presenting a personal essay. While this is also about me, I do not write it in the first person, but third. According to one definition, the essay is ‘a short piece of writing on a particular subject.’ The personal essay emphasizes how the writer feels about the subject.

Below is my essay regarding self-publishing.

~&&&&~

Presenting your Novel to the world

For the majority of individuals who believe they are capable of writing the great American Novel, completing the project and telling their story is only part of the journey. There was a time when an aspiring writer could shop their manuscript from one publishing house to another in hopes of finding one that would publish their book and nurture them through the marketing process.

Today’s market is entirely different. With the advent of self-publishing, most writers avoid the nail-biting waiting game and prepare their book on their own through self-publishing. While this allows writers to reach an audience, whether it is merely their friends and relatives, or a vast following of readers, the author is in control of the process.

I dreamed of being a writer for most of my life. But I didn’t have the luxury of being able to write and then shop a book around. Instead, I had to work full-time, take classes to finish my degree, and I raised a few kids, too. But, like many of my contemporaries, I knew I had something important to say. I felt my writing could and would touch people. Since I’d never read a book like the one in my mind, I knew I would have to write it.

I finally had the time to devote to writing after I retired. The first draft of my first Novel was extremely rough. I realized that my book lacked the punch of the novels I usually read.

And that started me down the path of learning the craft of writing. I learned that while a good idea is terrific, being able to put it down on paper in a way that others could understand your message was essential.

For the next three years, I wrote every day. I read non-fiction books about writing in addition to the novels I studied for technique. Using the new tools, I continued to polish and rewrite my manuscript.

When I finished writing the last draft, I knew I was ready to share my book with the world. The internet was abuzz about the success of independent authors selling on Amazon.com. Self-published authors were producing a large number of books and marketing them on their own.

After spending seven months waiting to hear from publishing houses, I decided I would take the plunge and self-publish my book. And while I was proud of learning the ins and outs of formatting and producing the book, I knew my work lacked the stamp of approval I would have found in acceptance from a publisher.

The first edition of my book was live on Amazon in late September of 2018, and I sold two-hundred copies to folks from several writing communities I belonged to, as well as my relatives.

The feedback was good—but I wanted a professional to give me their opinion. Finally, I hired an editor. After spending fifteen-hundred dollars, I learned the mechanics of my writing needed work, and I would have to learn more of the literary techniques used in fiction writing.

So, I went back into learning and research mode. I read articles and purchased books on creating characters, developing plot, and other techniques to present my story in the best light.

I returned to Amazon and updated my book. I labeled it the second edition and started on my next book.

While self-publishing isn’t necessarily for everyone, it is an avenue for the independent writer to put their book out on the market, while they are in absolute control.

When you self-publish, it is on your timeline, your marketing, and your profits are yours, rather than a split with a publishing house.

But self-publishing takes a tremendous amount of effort and skill. While you can hire someone to design your book cover and editors to help with ensuring your prose are readable, you are still responsible for marketing, and networking to build your list of readers.

The tools in your toolbox will grow with each subsequent book, but everything takes time.

But, in my opinion, it’s well worth it.

~&&&&~

Check out my self-published books: Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Innocent for the Moment, and the third book in this trilogy will be available in late October, Moment by Moment.

My next few blogs will deal with other types of essays and how you can use them for presenting your opinion, the knowledge you’ve gained, and offering your writing to the masses.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

An example of the memoir

Hi there,

Over the next week, I’m going to share with you a few different types of writing.

Today’s post is a memoir. According to Wikipedia, a memoir is:

A biography or autobiography tells the story “of a life”, while a memoir often tells a story “from a life”, such as touchstone events and turning points from the author’s life. The author of a memoir may be referred to as a memoirist or a memorialist.

~&&&&~

The two most important influences of my writing career

During the summer of 1981, my life was full of turmoil. I considered leaving my teenage marriage of five years and try to find some happiness. I wasn’t content with my life, and I certainly wasn’t getting any closer to my goals being married to my first husband.

In the spring of that same year, I’d attended a concert to see Harry Chapin live in a small venue in Seattle, Washington. We had front row seats, and though I was familiar with ‘Taxi,’ ‘W.O.L.D,’ and ‘Cats in the Cradle,’ I didn’t know too many of Harry’s other songs.

That concert in March of 1981, just a few months before his sudden death, Harry Chapin became a vital person in my world. He inspired me to pick up my pen again.

The songs I heard that night were stories written to music. He wove parts of life into an intricate tapestry of melodies. I was entranced. Tears rolled down my face when I heard ‘A Better Place to Be’ for the first time.

But it was the ending of that concert that moved me the most. Harry was out by the concession stand, as he told us he would be as he and the band left the stage.

“I have no heavy plans for after the concert. I’ll be out in the lobby at the concession stand. It gives me a chance to sign anything you do buy and kiss the pretty women. Sorry guys – maybe next year.”

Now, during the concert, since I was in the front row with my then-husband, Harry noticed me. He saw me because my face reflected all of my emotions as I listened to his stories.

I was too late to get one of the ‘Harry Keep the Change’ t-shirts, but the pile of his poetry books stood high, and I grabbed one and got in line.

For a brief time during the concert, I had an incredible vision. In it, Harry and I walked together in a garden of beautiful flowers. Each flower represented one of his songs. Then we walked to a far corner of the garden, and the soil was plowed and ready for planting.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“This is your garden, Patty.”

“My garden?”

“Yes. When you start writing, you will have a beautiful garden filled with your words and the stories you create.”

“Yes. I can see that.”

After a moment, I asked him, “Do you think I can?”

“I think you can do anything you decide to try. And I know you are a great writer. Remember the stories you wrote when you were a kid? You could make your mother, your aunt, and your grandmother cry with one story. Imagine the impact you will have on the world.”

“Me?”

“Don’t be modest. Yes, you.”

When the concert was over, the vision of Harry and I in the garden vanished.

Finally, it was my turn to pay for my book and have it signed by Harry. He gave me a knowing smile when he took the book from me.

I felt as if he’d glimpsed a part of the vision. At that moment, I knew he and I traveled together over space and time. In fact, we’d done it many lifetimes before.

After he signed my book, Harry looked directly into my eyes.

“May I?”

He’d said he would kiss all the pretty girls, so I wasn’t astonished when he started towards me while giving the book back to me. What did surprise me was the way he grabbed me and leaned me back into a dip.

The kiss was magical. In those brief moments, I felt our souls greet one another. I felt like I was home after a long time of being on my own.

Now, my husband stood in the concession area and watched the kiss. He didn’t say much. He didn’t say much over the long ride back to Bremerton, where we lived.

Harry’s kiss and presence in my life lingered. He awoke the part of my brain that loved to write. I started to journal again. I always had a notebook with me, so I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to write down a phrase or an idea. The author in me was awake for the first time since I was sixteen.

On July 16, 1981, just a few months after I’d met him, Harry died in a freak car crash. It seems that the Volkswagen Bug he was driving lost power while he was in the far-left lane of a highway. The tractor-trailer truck behind him hit his car from behind, and Harry left this world.

When the news came on the radio while I was on my lunch break, I felt as if I’d just lost the most critical person in the world. I was bereft as if I lost my spouse or best friend.

And then in the most generous gesture, I’d ever known from him, my husband of five years went to the record store and bought me every Harry album he could find.

Unfortunately, it was a case of ‘too little, too late,’ but now, even after forty years, it still makes me smile to know my first husband truly cared. He just didn’t know how to love.

In September, I left my husband. I took my collections of albums and the books I’d been toting from place to place since I was sixteen years old.

Among my treasures, Harry’s book of poetry topped the list. I didn’t have very many things in that little studio apartment, but that memento sat proudly next to the small B/W TV I bought at the local K-Mart.

In early October, a woman I worked with brought me a large bag full of novels. She knew I was going through a rough patch, and she also knew I loved to read. I was delighted and took the bag home with me.

It was Friday night, and the winds were howling outside. I was glad for something to do, so I looked through the bag until I came upon one of Stephen King’s early novels. I read ‘Salem’s Lot’ from cover to cover that night.

Now, I didn’t sleep very well, but in the forward, Stephen King spoke to his love of writing and how it made his life possible.

Suddenly, I was back in that walk in the garden with Harry. Only now, Stephen King was with us, too. And they both told me how important it was for me to share my stories with the world.

Thirty-six years later, I self-published my first novel. Having the ability to write full-time because I’m retired, I think about my two heroes a lot.

Steve-o is still alive, and his books always come into my life as something new is published. But nothing in his work inspired me as much as Harry’s songs did—until I read the following quote,

“You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free so, drink. Drink and be filled up.”

~Stephen King~

And so, I believe writing is magic. Drinking this special water of life is what makes the writer different than most.

~&&&&~

And there you have it. This is an example of how you would write a memoir – though it is NOT the only way you can write an episode from your life. I hope you enjoyed this – it will be an integral part of a memoir I’m currently working on.

As you can see, the memoir is an account of something that happened to you during your life. However, rather than straight ‘reporting,’ you use literary devices, and ‘tell the story’ of the incident.

In my next blog, we will be taking a closer look at the personal essay and discussing the differences between the memoir and it.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

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