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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Writing Spaces: Prose Fiction

My Writing Craft/Writing Spaces folder, under the
Wordly: August Edition, my glasses case, my new
copy of Verandah twenty-eight, and The God of
Small Things
by Arundhati Roy. 
First of all, I huge apology to the people I normally follow for my recent absence! Assignments and whatnot piled up and while I've had plenty of things to blog about recently, I haven't had the time to. Now that I've got some free time to catch up, I'll tell you a few things you'll see in future posts:

  • Melbourne Writers Festival event: the launch of Verandah twenty-eight, the 28th edition of the annual Verandah literary journal published by Deakin University.
  • A review of Verandah twenty-eight
  • Writing Spaces: The Novel (although it falls under the 'Prose Fiction' category, it was given a lecture of its own)
  • Literature and post-colonialism 
  • A review of The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy 
  • Writing Spaces: The Exegesis and Theory
  • The 'ressie writers group' I have officially started
  • How I felt about the first creative assignment I had to hand in for Writing Spaces (including workshopping it a few weeks ago), and how I'm feeling about the second assignment. 
  • The Deakin Writers Club Wordly: Space edition 
Not necessarily in that order, and some of the topics might be combined into one post. But I'm pretty excited to get you guys up-to-date with the events of the past few weeks. But for now, on to Prose Fiction!

The writing space of Prose Fiction includes the novel, novella, short story, and flash fiction, but the first lecture was mostly focused on the shorter forms and not the novel. These shorter types of Prose Fiction can generally afford to be more radical and experimental than the novel.

The short story is an older form of story-telling than the novel, but it has received some heavy criticism, such as being simply a starting-point for writers who then go on to write novels. I disagree with that, as there are short stories that are capable of outshining some novels and some authors who write predominantly in the form of short stories, if not completely. I love writing short stories! Another criticism short stories have received is that of being outshone by the even shorter form of flash fiction. There also seems to be a ratio problem between people who want to write short stories and people who want to read them. It seems more readers are inclined towards novels despite the numerous writers who adopt the shorter forms, though I personally love both forms.

But what makes a short story? Or rather, what does a short story make? A short story makes a deep and thoughtful comment on the culture and our experiences of it. Not only this, but it also makes our experience of the culture strange to us and then re-explains it. At least, this is how the lecturer explained it and I think it's a brilliant answer.

I guess what makes a short story does also need to be considered. While short stories generally follow the same rules as a novel, there is more strictness in some areas and of course, a smaller word count. Short stories begin quickly, in the midst of an experience, and use only a limited number of characters and scenes. Our lecturer advised us to start as close to the end as possible and deal with only one major issue or problem, giving just enough necessary detail and allow for suggestive details too.

This all made me stop and think about the short stories that I've read and how much I love both reading and writing short stories and flash fiction. My personal favourites are Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice from the collection The Boat by Nam Le, and of course Super-Frog Saves Tokyo from the collection after the quake by Haruki Murakami... actually, make that all of the short stories in the Murakami collection, they were especially amazing.

What do you think of short prose fiction? What are your favourite examples of it? Do you prefer to read or write it? 

- Bonnee.

12 comments:

  1. Glad things are going well over there. I'm kind of funny with short stories. A good short story can be an amazing thing, short, sharp, sometimes better than any novel. Yet I also find a lot of short stories I read in literary publications feel kind of...pointless. Maybe I'm reading the wrong publications. Or the wrong stories in the publications.

    As for the writing, I rarely set out with the intention of writing one, but sometimes, it just sort of happens.

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    1. I haven't been exposed to many literary magazines until this year, and still it's been limited, but the short stories in collections by the author have always seemed pretty good to me. Maybe some are pointless and I've just been lucky.

      I write short stories with the intention of writing them because there so many literary magazines and competitions to get a break in, and I think they're fun to write.

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  2. Have no opinion about short prose fiction and don't recall anyone that I've read. But I did write one short story for kids about little girl's dream. That's my picture book. What's nice about writing a short story is that it's short, no more than a few pages. But from what I read, literary agents don't want to represent a collection of short stories. They want a long story, very long, to sell as a novel. Now to some Melbourne news, if you didn't hear it" Melbourne was chosen last month as the world's most livable city and Vienna and Vancouver (Canada) came close behind. The top 10 cities include 5 cities from Australia and New Zealand, 3 from Canada and 2 from Europe.

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    1. I find it sad that literary agents don't want to represent short story writers, and instead want novels. I've heard the same applies to poetry. Fair enough though, there are plenty of short story and poetry competitions out there that I don't think agents feel the need to represent the authors, though I'm sure short story authors would appreciate it if they did.

      As for the livable cities thing, that's awesome, I did not know that :) I love Melbourne, and in a future post I'll have some photos from around the city. Thanks for stopping by Giora :)

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  3. Great post Bonnie. I write all forms - novels, short stories and flash fiction. Surely there's a place for each one. No matter how difficult it is to write a great short story and to get the elements right, nothing is harder than the long crafting and compilation of a novel. :-)

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    1. I definitely agree that writing a novel is more challenging. There's a lot more time and dedication put into it, and the longer a project runs for the more chances the writer has to give up or get distracted and never return.

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  4. Despite everything that seems to make sense in the universe, comparing short prose and novels is like comparing lions to tigers. They're similar, yet many things about them differ.

    The actual writing itself isn't a whole lot different (although I pointed out a few things in my Description post counter to that). The number of characters, types of arcs, plot structures, foreshadowing, etc. are typically done differently. Also, short fiction has a much higher rate of 3rd-narrative POV, at least right now. Some of the differences are hard to peg down, especially considering I just woke up about half an hour ago...

    I like reading both. Short stories can be read in one sitting for maximum effect, whereas novels have more emotional impact with slower pacing.

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    1. That's one of the things I love about short prose, being able to read it in one sitting. Novels are more of an emotional investment, yes, both to read and to write. I guess the major differences is why although short prose and the novel all fall under prose fiction, the novel got a lecture of its own.

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  5. I've been writing a short story and they are dang hard. They might be a gateway drug to writing novels but they are an art unto themselves when done right.

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    1. I couldn't agree with you more. There is a bit of magic involved in crafting it right.

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  6. Short story writing as opposed to novel writing is much like a banzai tree. You prune and prune and prune to distil the creation to its essence. I look forward to your future posts. :-)

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    1. I think that's part of the beauty of short story writing. It's concise and to the point and you get straight down to the nitty-gritty of what the story is about. Thanks for visiting Roland :D

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