How To: Short Story

There’s a lecture series that goes up on YouTube (2020 Creative Writing Lectures BYU) and the most recent one was about short story writing. Now, anyone who knows me also knows I can’t give a simple instruction without going over the limit. Truly. So I watched it (twice) and did the exercise. First, this is the important stuff that needs to come out right up front:

Open: meet char, make promise to reader
Who (and their verb/actions – the verb thing is what I use in place of an action – think of it as a verb metaphor for the character)
Where (sensory details)
Genre (specific and unique and dramatic)

Onto the story, and this is the result (limit 250 words):


No one guarded the repository for trainee documents. Not required. Who would be stupid enough to enter the Worm-Tail room without authority. Except Nim. She wanted to win a trip out of this hell-hole.
There. She clicked the download icon.
The new worm-jockey history and rulebook overloaded Nim’s memory circuits. She slipped the coaster search logs into archive storage and flipped the brain-code closed. The process jammed, visual acuity faded. Nim ripped her safety glove off and flung it onto the panel-board.
Lights flashed red, sirens blared.
No, no, no. Nim pressed abort, abort, abort, kept pressing the large black disk.
The tail of recudian energy flowed onto the metal gangplank amid screaming klaxons. A message flashed on the screen – invalid request, please ensure valid load. If the tail didn’t find a subject to transport, it would take whatever was closest. Nim snapped her mouth shut and stamped her non-regulation, steel-capped boots onto the plate.
This wasn’t how she anticipated becoming a worm-jockey.
The adjudicators would condemn her to the void for unapproved use of resources. If she made it back.
When the blackness receded from her visual orbs, Nim smiled. The world she floated above was wild, untouched, green. No other jockey would choose this location to seek a viable coaster.
She initiated her wing-suit and stepped off the only link to her past life.

And the other notes

(yeah, you go right ahead and try to work it out — or watch the presentation):

MICE quotient
Milieu – begins @ enter [then conflict]; ends with close.
Hello – there must be some way outta here – bye!
Inquiry — ?there’s a question, [a variety of questions arises, no answers]; aha!
Character – angst – woe is me – Ahhhh!
Event – oh, no! – fight, chase, disrupt – ta-da!
Character is internal/interior.
Event which is exterior/external.

<m> <i> </m> </i>
Nested: open Milieu; open inquiry; close milieu; close inquiry.
L = (((c + s) 750 x m) /1.5)
L = length
C = Character
S = Stages
M = MICE threads

Try/fail cycle = yes, but (made progress, but); no, and (no forward progress, and further from/worse than before)

Yes, and – continues toward the goal
No, but – a reversal, but somewhat closer.

I wonder how my piece would have been assessed — care to make an assessment for yourself? I like hearing what readers feel …

And no, I’m not ignoring the historical events of the current world situation, but there are enough other people talking about it, and I know nothing …

11 thoughts on “How To: Short Story

  1. Sounds a lot like work to me. The formulas extract joy from the writing process in my world. Maybe if I could look at it like I look at forms in poetry?

    I like the flash of action in your story. Pacing is important. It can’t all be flash. Young brains go at a relentless and fast pace. Older brains can but often choose slower. Depending on who your target audience is is important.

    These are thoughts off the cuff…
    I’ll check out the link, thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Everything has a form/shape/pattern – a shirt is a shirt, but oh, how many different shirts can be made from the one pattern!
      The story could do with a bit of work, but I put it up as the first flash that came with the set task, so it’s warts and all. Always fun to tell a story.

      Liked by 1 person

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