I’m studying for my English class and need an explanation.
After reading The Time Machine, we want you to create your own short story. It should contain all of the elements of a short story including exposition, rising action, climax, resolution, and falling action or denouement.
Your story must include some element of time travel. You are allowed to move forward or backward in time. You may write in the first person or in the third person. However, you need to make your choice consistent throughout your story.
Your story needs to reflect that you spent a significant amount of time crafting it. You are aiming to turn in a completely polished piece of writing. You are writing to entertain!
For your reference a short story is generally no shorter than 1000 words and no longer than 20,000 words. Aim for a word length within those parameters.
Step One: Finding an Inspiration
Fiction writers get inspiration from:
- The first line—suddenly that great line comes out and the story pours out from it.
- An object that represents (symbolizes) something important
- A memory of an interesting event (fictionalized to be more magical)
- A dream (reorganized to make sense)
- A painting, photo, dance, or piece of music that speaks to them in a narrative way
- A message or observation that they’d like to share with the world
- A character they know or observed (names changed to protect the innocent)
- A place they have seen or been that has a story of its own
- A newspaper account of an event that has a deeper story inside
- An issue in their lives that they want to work through in a story
- Events that happen to friends
- Events they observe
- “What if . . .” thoughts they want explore
- An image, sound, smell, taste, texture that is striking
- What they want in life
- What they hate/love
There is one place that writers do NOT ever go to find the gem of inspiration. They NEVER EVER tell a story that has already been told. If it isn’t plagiarism (and it might be if you don’t change enough), then it is an equally evil sin in the kingdom of creativity called being DERIVATIVE.
Spend a few minutes writing about your idea. This will not be part of your story, but it will make the writing the story easier.
Step two: Discovering Your Characters
Characterization (Part 1)
Characterization is the most important part of a story. If readers don’t love, hate, or believe in your characters, your story is doomed.
Good characterization comes in planning the four following qualities for each significant character:
- Quirks – a character trait that makes the character unique or interesting
- Motivations – what makes the character tick; the thing the character values the most
- Objectives – what the character wants in the story (main objective) and in each scene of the story
- Obstacles – What keeps the character from achieving his/her objectives (can be another character, a character’s feelings or beliefs, the character’s environment or the society of the character.
NOTE: The characters’ obstacles become the conflict(s) of your story
To complete step two in writing your story create at least 2 or 3 characters by filling out this chart.
|Character Name||Character #1||Character #2||Character #3|
Step three: Plotting out the Plot
This diagram should look familiar. This is Freytag’s pyramid, which is a popular way to chart the plot of a story or film. Each event or scene is a complication in the plot. For a short story you should limit yourself for between two and four complications. The more developed each complication is, the more interesting your story will be. Each scene will have dialogue, action, and description. Do not skimp on any of these parts or your story will be thin.
Next you will complete a plot outline for your short story. You can copy and paste the chart below into a word document.
- You will summarize the information you want to give your readers in the exposition; include characters, setting, and conflict. Remember not to give away the farm. You need to save some surprises for the end of the story.
- You will summarize the cause-effect scenario that occurs during each complication. You will have between 2 and 4 complications
- You will summarize the events of the climax
- You will explain how you will end the story.
Step four: Selecting the Point of View
Select a point of view from which to tell your story.
You need to decide who is going to tell your story and why that is the best choice. Consider the following questions:
- Whose story are you telling?
- Should that person tell his/her own story? –First person main character narration
- Should another character tell his/her story? – First person minor character narration
- Do you need a narrator who is outside the story so that the thoughts and feelings of the main character can be revealed? – Third person limited narration
- Do you need a narrator who is outside the story so that the thoughts and feelings of more than one character can be revealed –Third person omniscient narration
- Do you need a narrator who is outside the story who only tells the action and dialogue of the story like a news reporter – Third person objective narration
You must make a narrative selection and stick with it through the entire story. If you are not sure which point of view to choose, write the first few sentences a couple of different ways until you find the way that “feels” right.
As you draft you must balance three important things:
Creative writing is an art form much like playing an instrument or painting with techniques that must be practiced. Consider the following techniques and let them guide your drafting.
- Show; don’t tell. [Never say: “Anya was angry.” Instead say: “Anya’s eyes flashed red, and her voice shot up nearly an octave.”]
- Less is more. [Only describe the significant or symbolic. Do not spend two pages chronicling the objects on the front seat of the character’s truck unless each of those objects will appear in the story later in an important way.]
- Follow the 80/20 verb rule. [80% action verbs and 20% linking verbs. BE verbs are BAD verbs: Avoid is, are, was, were, be, am, being, been]
- Figurative language makes your writing rich and delicious. [Instead of saying: “Anya ran from the room without looking back,” you could use an allusion, “Anya hurried from the room. Like Lot fleeing Gomorrah, she knew looking back would destroy her.”] Use: similes, metaphors, personification, allusion, irony, hyperbole, understatement, and imagery to make your story yummy.
- Keep the reader wanting more. [Don’t tell everything in the exposition, let your reader get to know the characters and situation gradually. Drop little hints about what is to come, but don’t say: “Anya didn’t know it yet, but Joseph was her cousin and the Amulet belonged more to him than her.” Instead say, “Anya and Joseph had ties she couldn’t begin to guess at.”]
- Dialogue is not chit chat. Every word a character speaks should either move the plot forward by revealing something new or teach us something new about the character.
- Begin with a bang and end with an explosion. Your first line has to be interesting or noone will read the rest. Your ending has to have a surprise or a twist or the audience will feel cheated.
- Make a statement. Be sure that there is a point to your story, a message, lesson or observation about life.
Step five: Revising and Editing
When you finish drafting, you will be tempted to throw your hands in the air and walk away triumphant, but you haven’t even run the race yet. The most important part of writing is revising. Revising is not quickly reading over your text, changing a couple words, and calling it a day. REVISING IS RETHINKING!
The actions of revising are: ADDING REMOVING MOVING CHANGING
Revise by reading your story out loud and really listening to it. Ask others to read your story and give you feedback as well.
Use the check list below revise effectively:
Have I maintained consistency in voice (point of view)?
Are the words chosen carefully for connotation (tone)?
Are the phrases/images unexpected, memorable, or clever? (Remove clichés)
Are active verbs used consistently?
Are the first and last sentences the strongest? (Make it so!)
- Surprise (Ironic/Humorous/Twist Ending)
How is your story surprising (but still focused)?
Do you telegraph your twist (reveal it too soon)? (If so, rewrite it.)
Is the audience going to get it in the end? (If not, figure out a way to make it clearer.)
Use the checklist below to edit your text effectively:
Is my spelling correct?
Is my capitalization correct?
Is my punctuation correct? (periods, question marks, exclamation points, commas, semi-colons, colons, hyphens, slashes, parenthesis, brackets, italics, underlining, quotation marks)
Are my sentence boundaries correct?
Have I avoided sentence fragments (SF)?
Have I avoided run on sentences (RO)?
Have I avoided comma splices (CS)?
Have I followed the other rules of grammar?
Do I have subject-verb agreement in every sentence? Do I have noun-pronoun agreement in every sentence?
Are my lists parallel?
Are my subject-object assignments parallel?
Have I followed the rules of usage?
Are my verb endings and combinations correct?
Have I used articles where they are needed?
Have I avoided misplaced/dangling modifiers?
Have I indicated possessives with apostrophes?