New releases Thursday


Lake country

I used to listen to this radio station that had a list of new music releases every Thursday. Well, why not do the same thing here, any time you get something done and published?

So here’s my latest effort, ‘Mayday’, a short sci-fi story involving the only survivor of a decompression accident in space. He hallucinates and can’t tell if he’s been rescued or it’s his imagination. After all, he only wanted a breath of fresh air.

It is now available on Kindle and in the Kindle Lending Library. I have others in the mill, and this one comes out of the Work in Progress section.

Here’s something we may not think about when writing fiction. Sometimes a story may become more complex than we had originally meant it to be, and it develops enough material for a full-length novel as it progresses. Short stories are frequently harder to write than book-length stories. You can become so embedded in the characters and their development that before you know it, you are doing a full-length chronicle of their lives. You might also be providing hints to the reader as you go that point to a longer timeline than you had originally anticipated when you started.

That’s kind of like the Red Queen in ‘Through the Looking Glass’ telling Alice that the faster you run, the further you have to go, because you’re just running in place. The reference to relativity in physics does apply: the faster you go, the more time slows down and the further away is the finish line.

There are exercises that can be used to get into the ‘start to finish’ habit. One of them is using the TV script format from the Screen Writers Guild. A half-hour TV show takes 24 pages of mostly dialogue, which allows two acts with time for commercial breaks. A one-hour TV show takes 48 pages of (mostly) dialogue, which gives you 4 acts of 12 pages per act, with commercial breaks inserted between those acts.

Following these formats will give you the discipline of telling a complete story within a specified page length. This is not about writing scripts, but rather about building the habit of the ‘start to finish’ discipline and the follow-through of continuity. You need to be aware of what each character’s behaviors, speech patterns and motivations are in order to make each of them flesh-and-blood instead of cardboard and window dressing.

I did that a while back. It was fun. It was a tremendous learning experience. I found that a character’s personality is just as much a part of his presence as his costume, his appearance and his name. In fact, if you refer to any of Shakespeare’s plays, nowhere does he physically describe the characters or what they wear. He allows the actors to flush them out through their speech. We know that Petruchio was a soldier of fortune, but why was he really in Venice? And we know that Kate was the older sister, but why was she being kicked out of the only home she had ever known?

The best part about this practice of following a set format is that you are required to write a comprehensive story within a set number of pages or word count. This cuts away unnecessary rambling. If it’s a TV show you know and watch regularly, you already know the characters, how they move, how they speak. That makes it easier, and now you see where I’m going with this.

Go on – give it a shot. What do you have to lose?

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