Monday, 26 July 2010

The Nature of Short Fiction-or Short Story

 Several years ago, I bought a 1970 Edition Writer's Digest book titled "Handbook of Short Story Writing." This small book gives practical advice on the how-to's of: Ideas, Characters, Dialogue, Plotting, Viewpoint, The Scene, Description, Flashback, Transition, Conflict, Revision, and Marketing.
With the complete guide, one would think a budding short story writer would soon learn the knack of writing decent stories, and perhaps one day turn into Eudora Welty. You remember her, don't you? I recently found another treasure at my local Half-Price Book Store titled "A Curtain of Green and Other Stories," by Eudora Welty. The first printing was in 1941 and the book has been reprinted many times. Her works are taught in college English courses.

"Curtain of Green" contains seventeen short stories, ranging in length from twelve pages to twenty-five pages. In case you're wondering the exact length of a true short story, her stories probably can be considered the water mark.

The titles of her stories in "Curtain" are creations in themselves: "Lily Daw and the Three Ladies," "Old Mr. Marblehall," "Petrified Man," and "Death of a Traveling Salesman,"—to name a few.

You didn't know Eudora Welty wrote "Death of a Traveling Salesman?" She did—in 1930. And how many times has that twenty-five-page story been read, and re-read, and studied, and turned into a stage play? She was born in 1909 and died in 2001, went to college but returned home to live out her days in the home she was born in. She never married, but was said to be a "dreamy" sort of girl. I believe this "dreamy" characteristic came about because she was creating stories in her head. We've all done that, haven't we? Looked dreamy? Or maybe in a trance?

I am no Eudora Welty, nor do I wish to be. But I value the short story more because of her talent, greatness, and influence.

These days, I'm turning more and more to writing shorter stories. Call them what you will—short stories, short fiction, mini-novels, or novellas—each one contains the same elements as any piece of fiction.

I've written three short stories, each one 1500 words long. The accepted length for a true short story is less than 7500 words. Anything less than 1000 words is considered "Flash Fiction." Novellas typically range from 17,500 words to 40,000 words.

The three short stories (Free Reads) are on my author's page on The Wild Rose Press website. The limit was 1500 words, but each one became about 3000 words, with no way to cut out half. However, I had a wonderful editor and she assured me I could. I began to work on each one, and at last, shortened it successfully. If you read one of these, you'll never know which words I omitted.

My short stories are:

The Wedding Auction—1500 words—The Wild Rose Press

Merry Christmas, Victoria—1500 words—The Wild Rose Press

Wishes Do Come True—1500 words—The Wild Rose Press

California Cousins—1900 words—my blog, click at top

Thank you for visiting today.

Celia Yeary

Romance…and a little bit o' Texas

TEXAS BLUE-eBook and Print




Lindsay Townsend said...

Congratulations on your short story success, Celia! Thanks, too for a fascinating article - I never knew Death of a Travelling Salesman was a short story first!

How did you cut down your shorts from 3000 to 1500?

Linda Swift said...

Hi Celia. I enjoyed your article, and since I hadn't checked in for awhile, I also read the others on this subject. As a short story writer myself, I found them all very interesting and helpful. Thank you, Lindsay for bringing this subject to our attention.
Ah, Eudora Welty. I have been a fan of hers forever. And I had the opportunity to hear her speak at U. of TN in Chattanooga several years ago. She was a tall, frail, unassuming lady who sat alone onstage in a packed auditorium. She was elderly and couldn't hear loud thunder but with an interpreter she took questions from the audience. One questioner was a spouting know-it-all who was trying to impress everyone with his intellect and she put him in his place with one simple low-key sentence. It was unforgettable.

Celia Yeary said...

Thanks, Lindsay--I had fun writing this short post. There are other famous worthy short story authors in our history, but I chose Eudora because I remember one short story we read in Freshman College English. I read and re-read that story, and to this day remember one scene with clarity. The purpose of the story? I have no idea. Celia

Celia Yeary said...

LINDA--I'd love to know the one line she spoke to put that whipper-snapper in his place. I Googled her and found many old photos. Not a pretty woman, but her eyes have that dreamy look. God bless her. Thanks for stopping by--Celia

Savanna Kougar said...

Wonderful post, Celia. My college education was lacking. I missed Eudora Welty. Perhaps, it was because I didn't study short story writing in particular. At the time, I wasn't impressed with short stories, having read many I didn't care for.

However, Death of a Salesman is an absolute classic. And, I wish I'd known Eudora Welty. Thanks for bringing her to life.

And, I loved your California Cousins... I need to check out your other short stories.

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Celia,
I did not know that about Death of a Salesman. Two of my favorite short story tellers of all time were O'Henry and Poe. I remember what an impression The Ransom of Red Chief and The Cask of Amantillado made on me in fifth grade reading (this was back when reading, writing, and arithmetic were still the major subjects. LOL) What vivid pictures they painted for me with limited words.

Celia Yeary said...

SAVANNA--No, we didn't study short stories, either. It was just in a section about American authors.Her stories are a little weird, and you hang on every word.
I'm glad you liked California Cousins. I wish I could sell that one, but I don't know where it would go. So, I just let people read it.
My Free Reads--"The Wedding Auction" was the first and the one I had the most comments on.They liked the twist at the end--how I like to end as many stories as I can--that little surpsise.

The third one--"Wishes Do Come True"--is about two people who were orphan train children and met as adults. From Google Alerts, I found an review for this one. How odd, to review a 1500 word free read, but this reviewer wrote a pretty long review about it. She didn't like it for about ten reasons. "This wouldn't have happened; I don't believe this part; men and women back then didn't visit at night alone;all sorts of things! I wrote her and asked why she bothered writing such a detailed review about such an insignigicant piece of drivel..and I disagreed with her on most points. I had a good time with that review!!!

Thanks for your great comments--Celia

Celia Yeary said...

REBECCA--those two authors were the best, weren't they? I also really liked Somerset Mauaghm(how do you spell that?.)
I appreciate your reading this--Celia

Linda Swift said...

Celia, to answer your question. I wish I could remember her exact words but as I said, it has been a long time. The man in the audience stood and pontificated on all the psychological meaning of a passage in one of her works. When he finally finished, she nodded, smiled sweetly and said, "Well, we southerners know a ________ when we see one. Oh, how I wish I could recall her exact word but it was slang for an idiot or crazy person. And she brought the house down. Now I won't rest tilll I remember that word!

Linda Swift said...

Ah, I just thought of it.
"We Southerners know a freak when we see one."
Whew. I'm glad my hard drive let me retrieve that one. I have work to do.

Savanna Kougar said...

LINDA, Omygoodness, that is a classic. Too bad it's probably not a YouTube vid, that's one of the few I'd watch.

REBECCA, The Ransom of Red Chief was one of my favorites! I think it was fifth grade I read it. Fourth or fifth. Can't remember.

CELIA, that would be a review to have a good time with... gee, it's free.

StephB said...

Celia, how cool is that? Welty wrote Death of a Traveling Salesman in 1930. I'm tickled pink to learn this.

I've never read her shorts, but I bet they are good reading. Thanks so much for sharing your shorts with us.


Celia Yeary said...

STEPH--thank you! I'll be touching base with you on your tours later--right now--must do some chores and errands--Celia

Tara S Nichols said...

Short stories are some of my favorites to read, and they take a heap of talent to execute! My education is solely lacking on Eudora Welty, but I think now I'll look her up.