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Thread: "There are two cardinal rules when writing a short story:"

  1. #1
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    "There are two cardinal rules when writing a short story:"

    From a review of Fires of Our Choosing, by Eugene Cross (which I'm not familiar with):

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/...o-burn-634633/

    There are two cardinal rules when writing a short story: the first sentence should compel the reader to continue, and tension should appear on the first page.
    Of course there are plenty of other rules, and at the same time there are no rules, but you could do far worse than attend to these two elements.

  2. #2
    practical experience, GTFO
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    A question to all: If you could only choose two, what rules would you say are most important to your writing? Try to be more specific than "Make it interesting".

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    practical experience, FTW Official AW W1S1 Badge Wrangler Lillie's Avatar
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    Finish it.
    Sub it.


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    Not responsible for bitten fingers Shadow_Ferret's Avatar
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    Quote:
    There are two cardinal rules when writing a short story: the first sentence should compel the reader to continue, and tension should appear on the first page.


    I've know a lot of short stories that didn't follow these rules and had I abandoned them simply because of it, I'd have missed out on some great short stories.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow_Ferret View Post
    I've know a lot of short stories that didn't follow these rules and had I abandoned them simply because of it, I'd have missed out on some great short stories.
    Yeah, I do too. Then again, I can think of a few that might have been better for following these, also.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    Why do the cardinals get to set the rules?

    Rules for my writing? Less whining, more action.

  7. #7
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    I really can't think of many stories that don't follow those two rules, except by misinterpretation of what these rules mean. I also can't understand why anyone would write a story that didn't follow these two rules?

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    Caped Codder jaksen's Avatar
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    Guess so. I try not to think about stuff like this and just write.
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    Out, damn'd spot! out, I say. Lady MacBeth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lillie View Post
    Finish it.
    Sub it.

    lol. That's pretty much my motto too.

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    1. Throw the charrie into hell/difficult situation.
    2. Find out how they get out--in as few words as possible.

    Actually, that doesn't just go for my short stories, that goes for my fiction in general. Obviously, I like plot-driven stories.

  11. #11
    Likes metaphors mixed, not stirred Chris P's Avatar
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    I guess I try to follow those rules in one form or another, but I don't get too hung up on the wording of the rules more than the wording of the story.

    My writing improved greatly once I realized that I don't have to explain who these people are and how they got to where they are. I just start with them doing what they are doing to make the story happen.
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    practical experience, GTFO
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    OK, I've finally come up with my two.

    Don't mind the gap. Readers need a lot less hand-holding than you think. No need to spell everything out. Small details carry a long way and things left unsaid are often just as effective. Same goes for events: subtract them from your story until it breaks.

    Go for the jugular. Write towards problems, not away from them. When in doubt, always choose the more emotionally painful option. Never miss a chance to play with shame, guilt, anxiety or regret. And if you're afraid to write something, write just that.

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Al Stevens's Avatar
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    1. Get the coffee going.
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    practical experience, FTW Nostro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orchestra View Post
    A question to all: If you could only choose two, what rules would you say are most important to your writing? Try to be more specific than "Make it interesting".


    1. Write about characters that are as relatable to as many people as possible. This is not meant as a savvy marketing choice. Rather, I want to provide protagonists that the reader can readily adapt to, someone who you can imagine bumping into on the street.

    This is far more difficult than I originally imagined. My second rule is something that may or may not be a cardinal rule of my writing. But I find myself doing it, or striving to do it, whenever I start a new story.

    2. Don't write about realistic situations, or avoid social realism. My favourite short stories tend to be have aspects of magical realism and/or are very intertextual. I enjoy having my everyday characters navigate worlds where reality is slightly more malleable than they are used to.

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    1. Laugh.
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    Hope I pull it off sometime, would be sweet.

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    I think those two rules apply to most types of writing

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    1. Make it smart
    2. Make it real
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    In debt to AW Raphee's Avatar
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    I like shorts that have humor or an element of irreverence.
    Second I like shorts that have an interesting, new take on situations, even everyday events.


    As for the cardinal rules, can't say much, I am not sure they even exist.

  19. #19
    Comic guy Bartholomew's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Orchestra View Post
    A question to all: If you could only choose two, what rules would you say are most important to your writing? Try to be more specific than "Make it interesting".
    #1 Don't stop writing until it's done
    #2 Don't stop subbing until it's sold

    ~

    If you're wanting craft rules, then...

    #1 The writer needs to ground the reader into the story's world
    #2 The writer needs to make the reader sympathize with the main character, whether they fucking like it or not.
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    DenturePunk writer bearilou's Avatar
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    Can I ask what a 'charrie' is?
    Quote Originally Posted by Phaeal View Post
    The first draft is a huge pile of clay that you've laboriously heaped on your table, patting it into a rough shape as you go along. From the second draft onward, you'll cut away chunks, add bits, pat and punch and pinch, until you finally have a gorgeous figure of, oh, Marcus Aurelius. Or a duck. But a damn fine duck.
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  21. #21
    Untold stories inside Ralyks's Avatar
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    Those two rules seem reasonable aims to me, although I give writers more than one sentence.

    It's not a rule, but I like to keep in mind Edgar Allan Poe's "single effect."
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    JWNelson JWNelson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lillie View Post
    Finish it.
    Sub it.
    Can't put it much better than that.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lillie View Post
    Finish it.
    Sub it.
    Ditto.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bartholomew View Post
    #2 The writer needs to make the reader sympathize with the main character, whether they fucking like it or not.
    I hear everyone say "you need sympathetic characters," to which I ask: Why? I've read sympathetic characters--a lot of them, in fact--and in the end, I didn't care for them anymore than the characters who're rotten bastards. (Actually, the rotten bastards tend to have the better voice.)

    Honestly, I believe it's the interesting characters that make me want to invest in them, the ones who are slightly (or really) fucked up. There's something compelling about those screwy characters, you want to read on, figure out what makes them tick, if they ever get through their struggles (either external or internal). And those are the characters who will give you one hell of a ride.

  24. #24
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    The two rules of pro wrestling seem to apply to some genres of short stories. Never be boring. Have no shame.

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  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW djunamod's Avatar
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    I would say the 2 rules of short stories quoted from the article would apply to any work of fiction, including longer works.

    Djuna

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