November 10, 2012
Tessa Hadley gave a class on the short story at Cardiff Central Library.
Here are some tips for writing short stories:
- Know – or half know – what you are writing towards before you begin.
- Struggle to find fresh words to do justice to the scene in your imagination. Language is lazy, will try to seduce you into writing a less true, more commonplace, version of your story.
- Find the right door into your story, and the right door out of it.
- Your ending is very important – in a way, because stories are so short in the reading experience, it functions almost as the ‘point’ of what you’ve done. But its turn mustn’t be too obvious or noisy. A sideways step, a quiet move onto something new, a new revelation.
- Find some strong central motif or movement in your story, and don’t overcomplicate.
- Keep everything in the foreground, leave out as much of the back story as you can.
- (But: in writing there are exceptions to every rule – you are always free to break them.)
Some favourite stories:
|Anton Chekhov||‘Lady with a Lapdog’, ‘Ward Six’, ‘A Boring Story’, ‘Three Years’|
|Elizabeth Bowen||‘A Summer Night’, ‘Mysterious Kôr’, ‘A Day in the Dark’, ‘The Jungle’|
|Rudyard Kipling||‘Plain Tales from the Hills’|
|John McGahern||‘Lavin’, ‘Gold Watch’, ‘The Love of the World’, ‘The Country Funeral’|
|Jorge Luis Borges||‘The Immortal’, ‘Funes the Memorious’, ‘The Witness, ‘Borges and I’|
|D.H. Lawrence||The Odour of Chrysanthemums’, ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’|
|Katherine Mansfield||‘Prelude’, ‘At the Bay’, ‘The Dolls’ House’|
|Ellen Gilchrist||The Age of Miracles|
|Nadine Gordimer||A Soldier’s Embrace and other stories|
|John Updike||The Afterlife and other stories|
|Alice Munro||The Love of a Good Woman|
|Colm Tóibín||The Empty Family|
|Claire Keegan||Walk the Blue Fields|