Outlining a short story

December 26, 2011

There’s a new short story contest up at the Straight Dope board, and I decided that this time, I was going to put some more thought into outlining it, not just start writing the first idea I thought of when I got the prompt.

That wasn’t particularly easy. I had a notion what I wanted to do when I started, mostly because of the picture, which had a clock and a bell hanging from a chain, (which immediately made me think of time travel or time manipulation,) but when I tried to apply what I’d learned in Kansas and from other workshops and classes over the past year, I kept ending up on storylines that were missing conflict, or a good antagonist, or something else important like that.

And time was somewhat running out – the contest rules specify that you have sixty hours from when you collect the prompt – I sent in my email yesterday morning before leaving for Christmas with the family, (hoping that I’d be able to mull over ideas in the back of my mind,) and so I need to have my finished story in by tomorrow night.

This evening, though, after I printed off some handouts from Julie Czerneda’s site, things suddenly started to fall into place. I ended up writing nearly 1800 words in an hour and a bit, some of which will have to get cut to finish the outline in under 2000 words, but it’s a great start, and I think that I’ll keep the entire first draft without cuts to refer to later. I’d been mulling over the idea of enclosed spaces where time runs slower or faster than normal, and then got an idea about one possible application of ‘fast time bottles’ that really got things moving.

Here’s the outline that I’ve been working off. Note that ‘sequel’ is a technical term that I learned from James Gunn in the Kansas workshop – it’s not a seperate work of fiction, but a kind of scene that’s less active and conflict-driven than the usual kind, but serves to bridge between proper scenes.

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Short Fiction – The Onus of Grace… plus Crusader Challenge lie!

February 25, 2011

Well, since the Valentine’s SDMB short fiction contest has started, I figured I might as well share the one contest entry story that I’ve written and not yet posted to the blog. This was from September 2010, and it was this idea that I eventually expanded into my Nanowrimo 2010 story.

Oh – and the answer to my Crusader Challenge is at the end of the story. 😉

The onus of Grace

Richard sighed as the Hornet cruised down the road. The sun was setting, and the energy patterns of every person in every car on the freeway seemed to blur and meld until it was a multicolored aurora, like the Northern lights come down from the sky.

For a moment, the vision made it hard for him to concentrate on where he was steering, and then the defense system kicked in and he was just looking at taillights ahead of him and headlights in the oncoming traffic, like any ordinary person would see.

“Is it bad?” Jessie asked him. “I could drive for a few hours.”

“No, it’s fine now,” he assured her. “Just a bit of an overload of aura vision. I’ve turned it off for now.”

“Is it like that for you?” she asked, curiously. “A light switch? Or more like tuning out some distracting piece of music – you still hear it, but it isn’t as bad if you’re not paying attention?”

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Shortfic: Only the Elves know for sure.

February 18, 2011

This was another contest entry in the SDMB holiday short fic contest. I blogged about the contest when it was starting, and shared another entry with you a few weeks ago, so here’s the Christmas 2010 story.

I’d love to hear what you think if you give it a read.

—–

Eddie looked around the playground field. Most of the kids had gathered into two crowds, with a lot of children, like Eddie himself, scattered in between them.

“Of course Santa Claus exists,” Holly Scott declared from the center of the group to Eddie’s right, her blonde hair bouncing slightly as she nodded. “You have to believe in somebody like Santa Claus. Or else what’s the world coming to?”

“He’s not real,” Jason Berlin countered, and the other cynics gathered around him cheered slightly. “It’s all a made-up fake. The presents are all paid for by your parents, and the malls hire guys to play dress-up as Santa Claus. Nobody really flys around on a sleigh in the middle of the night delivering toys. Deal with it.”

There was more to the debate, and several of the undecided eventually picked a side, but Eddie still wasn’t sure what to believe in by the time Recess was over. So he walked home from school by himself and ended up telling the whole thing to his mother.

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SDMB Holiday Short Fiction Contest

December 25, 2010

Well, Christmas festivities are over. Thanks to my family for the candy and the gift cards.

Time to buckle down on writing/critiquing/editing, and even though I really have enough other things on my list, I’m going to participate in the third Straight Dope Message Board writing contest. I’ve really enjoyed participating in it each time before, and last time I basically got my Nanowrimo idea from the short fiction contest, so that certainly recommends trying again.

A few things about the format are similar – every writer gets the same three prompt words and a photo that they have to include in the finished story, and a time limit. On account of holiday schedules, they’re trying a new wrinkle in which not every participant has to fit into the same writing window – you send an email to a particular mailbox to signal that you’re ready to begin, and get an autoreply with your prompts. You then have two and a half days, (or 60 hours) to complete your entry and email it in.

To take best advantage of my available free time for the holidays, I’ll probably start around 8am tomorrow, so that I’ll have until 8pm on Tuesday, the evening before I go back to work. And I actually have a little secret weapon of a plot notion that I *might* work in, if it looks like it’ll fit with the prompt.

It’s nice to get a chance to go with little unplanned side treks like this in my writing when other commitments allow. The first SDMB contest, I ended up coming up with something that wasn’t exactly fanfic but somewhat close – it was a little spy story that was a spoof of the TV show ‘Chuck’, with Chuck’s character painted as a completely incompetent secret agent, and his long-suffering brother-in-law constantly covering for him. Last time, I ventured a bit further into original territory, coming up with a storyline of an angel on a mission who fell in love with a human girl and ran away with her, which got tweaked somewhat as the basis of “The Angel’s Charlie.”

I can’t wait to see where the paths less traveled take me this time.


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