Writing the Short Story - My Approach Part 2
Short Story Collections
Part 1 of this topic provides a definition of the Short Story and provides guidelines to be followed in writing the Short Story. Part 2 will provide examples within extracts of short stories to illustrate and clarify the literary terms and techniques described in Part 1.
1. Example of Dialogue and Dialect in the Short Story
- From the Story, ‘A Day at the Office’ in the book Four Strong Women by Joyette H Fabien
“You’re going to tell me what’s bothering you, Bernie?” She asked patiently after what appeared to be a long moment of silence.
“Mrs B, I will leave. I cannot take it anymore!” Bernie burst out, her words coming in a rush.
“Leave? Are you and your guy having problems? Sorry, I don’t remember his name. Oh dear, I’m so sorry.”
“No! No! It’s not that! Things are great with Jin and me. It’s here I’m talking about. I will leave the job! I cannot stay in that job! My supervisor always on my case, she does n’t give me a chance. I cannot get to organize my work; she forever breathing down my neck to do this now, do that now, do this so, do that so. She making me feel like I retarded or something. Is best I leave the work for her and she can do it how she want!” Her tears were flowing freely now.
“Bernie…Bernie,” Maria chided gently. “You need to stop crying! Don’t get worked up over this. Let’s discuss this practically. You can’t get rid of any problem by getting all worked up over it. You can’t run away from every difficult situation you encounter either. We will find a way to deal with this. I know it’s easier said than done, but believe me; no mountain is ever as high as it appears.
2. Example of Scenario in the Short Story
- From the Story, Free at Last in the book Motherless Children and Other Stories by Joyette H Fabien
What had, on that fateful day so many years ago, registered only as an annoyance had become a cancer gnawing away slowly at her insides? Somehow, the seeds of doubt had found their way into Sasha’s mind after she had left Dr. Gray’s office. As she drove home alone with her thoughts, the doubts had slowly transformed into fear. Suppose there was something wrong? Suppose she was, in fact, HIV positive? She remembered that only the year before her husband fell ill he had been in Guyana for six months on a training program. Suppose he had contracted the virus there and had passed it on to her? True he had died of cancer, but certain types of cancer were opportunistic and it was known that HIV positive people were prone to opportunistic infections.
Cold fingers clutched at her heart. She could not die now; God could not let her die. Who would look after her kids? Mama was moving on in age. Grandpa was an old man now. Suppose the boys had to be separated? It would kill them. Shem and Sheron were really close to each other; like peas in a pod. It just was not fair. She had never been promiscuous. What about all those girls who were sleeping around since high school? No, it just could not be.
3. Example of Flashback in the Short Story
- From the Story, Woman Alone in the book Four Strong Women by Joyette H Fabien
Two hours later, Steffie lay in bed still unable to fall asleep. Her brother had tried to reassure her that it was probably just a prank. All the same, he had advised her to ensure that all the doors were securely locked and to be sure to report the matter to the police in the morning. It was not fear that now kept her awake. It was memories going back some twenty odd years when her daughter, Josie who was only five years old was being stalked by a mysterious caller.
The calls had started coming a few days after Steffie’s husband James, an Extension Officer in the Division of Agriculture, had left for Belize on a three months training course. Their little daughter Josie had just entered primary school and it broke his heart to part from the two most precious ladies in his life. However, from a practical perspective they all agreed that three months would fly by and that in no time at all he would be home again. Steffie had assured him that she could cope in his absence and that Josie would be no problem at all particularly since she was quite happy with Mary, her babysitter for the past four years. Josie had also assured her daddy that she was a big girl and that she would speak to him on the phone every day.
The first few weeks had passed smoothly enough. Thank God for email and Skype otherwise the telephone bill would have been enormous. Then one morning, Mary had called Steffie at work to say that an unfamiliar male person had called and asked if Josie had left for school already. The caller had refused to identify himself and had hung up when Mary had insisted. The concern in Mary’s voice sparked a similar response in Steffie. They discussed the matter, but could make nothing of it. Josie was only five years old. What would a strange adult male be calling her about?
4. Example of Epiphany in the Short Story
Rrrring... Ryan sat up with a jerk. He had fallen asleep in the armchair in his living room. He glanced at his watch. It was eleven p.m. He gave the phone a venomous look. Who could be calling at that hour of the night? He wasn’t in the mood for any type of socialising. Reluctantly he picked up the receiver.
“Ryan, is that you? Ryan? I’ve been trying to reach you all evening.”
“Yes,” he replied coldly. Who is it? What do you want?”
“Ryan, it’s about Joanna.” Ryan bolted out of his seat fully alert now.
“Joanna? Joanna? What’s wrong? My God, is something wrong?” He was shouting now.
“She is in the hospital, Ryan. She had an accident....” “What? How? How is she? Tell me! What happened to Joanna? ” His heart contracted with fear.
“She got hit by a truck on her way home from work this afternoon. She is in Intensive Care. They say she suffered head injuries and a broken arm. That’s as far as they have been able to ascertain. I just thought I would let you know. Maybe it would be better if you broke the news to the children yourself.”
Ryan stood numbly, clutching the phone. He was breathing hard as he stood there frozen, listening to his mother-in-law who seemed to be repeating the same words over and over. “She is in Intensive Care.”
“Let her live, dear God. Let her live,” he prayed as he sped towards the hospital. He cursed himself for having let Joanna go, for not trying hard enough to bring her back home, for being the cause of her having to go out to work. He blamed himself for everything. He would do better, he would atone, if only he could be given another chance.
5. Example of Foreshadowing and Dreams in the Short Story
From the Story, Prisoner Forever in the book Motherless Children and Other Stories by Joyette H Fabien
It was nighttime and Shalyn was walking through the forest at Glo Sho where she used to walk as a child. Suddenly, she felt herself falling, falling. Then it was n’t dark anymore. She was in a field with lots of white lilies and she was making a bouquet, but the flowers kept dropping from her hands. Someone was calling her name, far at first then nearer and nearer. She called out a response and jumped up in bed. She felt strange as though someone was in the room with her. She could feel the heavy unfamiliar presence all around her. Tense with fear she huddled against the wall waiting for she knew not what. Suddenly, the telephone rang breaking the heavy silence and sending a chill of fear down her spine. Her beside clock showed 3:40 am. She picked up the receiver apprehensively. It was Eric, he was barely coherent. She listened in dismay as he broke the news that he had just discovered his wife’s body hanging from the ceiling in the spare room of their home.
It is my hope that these examples will provide useful illustrations of the concepts and devices outlined in Part 1 of this topic and will assist readers to full grasp the concepts.
These are not strictly formal guidelines to writing the story, but an approach which has worked quite well for me.
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