M. Frank Darbe A Writer's Journey


What makes a good short story?

That is neither a rhetorical question nor a hook to grab a writer to check out the newest "How to Write a Story" article. I really want answers. I have approximately 200,000 words worth of short stories on my hard drive. I've sold fifteen. I'm beginning to wonder where I'm going wrong.

I've worked diligently to improve my Grammar skills. I'm not perfect, but with every aid I can find and readers such as the wonderful crew who hangs out here, I think I manage to correct most of those. I've even reached the point with grammar that reading news stories annoy me with egregious errors.

No, through study, hard work, and advice the grammar problems are fixable.

I wonder what I am doing wrong. What am I missing?

Do I fail in the "Dramatic Question?"

The Dramatic Question in a story is not plot. It is not in the story. The Dramatic Question is raised in the mind of the reader. At it's most basic, it is "will the protagonist succeed or fail." Will the private detective discover the killer? Will the alien devour the crew of the ship? Will Whitey Bolger succeed in conning the FBI into helping him take over the mob? The Dramatic Question keeps the reader engaged, devouring words until the story is done.

I admit that I never start a short story with a dramatic question involved. In "The Nude Sketch" (critiqued here by members of Writer's World on Facebook™), I start with a little girl on her grandmother's porch. After its rejection, I read through the story and as far as I can tell the only Dramatic Question is "What the fuck is going on? You begin with a little girl, flash forward to her as a teenager, she commits suicide and finds her soul inside her grandmother's head sixty years before she died. What the fuck Chuck is going on?"

While writing the story, I asked myself "what next" and looked for events that pushed the story forward. I never thought to guide the reader to ask a dramatic question.

I see that as a flaw.

So I am asking, do you devise a dramatic question in your stories or do you just let the reader figure it out?

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No, french fries is not capitalized.

No matter what you might think, "french fries" or "french fry" is not capitalized in sentence. Yes, French is a proper noun, but the meaning of "french fries" does not hinge on the proper noun, "French."
Now, if I could just force spell check to stop flagging "french fry" or french fries" as mistakes.
In a related note, manhatten cocktail is not capitalized but Waldorf salad is.
Go figure.

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About My Writing Life, Sometimes Images Tell it All…

11925996_1109254222435231_3343302489383120682_nThis is me today.

Wishing for a cold winter.

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Editing is Rewriting is Writing is Editing…

Today, I intend to edit 10000 words of my work in progress (hereafter known as WIP) Shift.

Shift is a near future, Science Fiction novel written in 73 Scenes and 11 chapters. The novel is complete, but the process of weaving it back together is tough.

Perhaps that could be due to my editing process, which works in a scatter gun process. Part of editing is rereading through the work. My purpose is to fix grammar, shorten sentences, remove cliches, clarify actions, and fix the inevitable problems that arise in a long work of fiction.

Short stories are easier to edit because brevity makes it easier to keep the story together.

In a long work of fiction, written over months, day to day decision made by asking, what next, creates issues. I work from an outline, which makes editing a bit easier. An outline is like a military battle plan. Every tactician knows that plan of battle every survives contact with the enemy.

So I will rephrase that old military axiom from a writer's point of view, no novel outline ever survives contact with the story.

Now, to work.

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Last Night and This Morning, I Wrote a Short Story

Last night, I began a short story, "The Nude Sketch," that used the attached image as a writing prompt. This morning I finished the story, which topped in a 1,137 words, making it slightly longer than I intended.

The story, about reincarnation and family, became a marvelous exercise for stretching the writing muscles. I have used writing prompts because they stimulate my imagination to take me in a direction that I would not choose when sitting down to write. Writer's, as with all humans, have their comfort zones. Though I think I write quite well in my comfort zone, I improve when I reach beyond them.

I placed the story for critique in Writers World, a private group on Facebook where writers can have their stories critiqued in privacy and safety. I've made a lot of friends there and have found it very stimulating as a writer.

I intend to submit "The Nude Sketch," though I am not sure where.

I will update the blog when it is submitted.

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MicroFiction Redux

I wrote this blog post more than a year ago on my previous blog. When white screen errors and desperation led to the end of that blog and the loss of all those posts, I thought all those musings had vanished like flesh in a grave, leaving on the bones of my memory.

Hard drives are more durable, it seems. While pursuing my interest in Micro Fiction and Flash Fiction, I stumbled over David Gaffney's Guardian article, " Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction." Gaffney provides an excellent, brief lesson, as is fitting to the subject, to the art of writing flash fiction.

Tomorrow, I am going to write one.

Without further ado, my brief blog post on writing brief stories.

Microfiction is a brief, disciplined fiction form often found under assumed names as "flash fiction, micro fiction, micro narrative, micro-story, postcard fiction, short short, short short story, sudden fiction" (Renshaw). Weighing in at 750 words or less, it requires not just a few words, but exact words.

Micro-Fiction is not prose poetry with or without a rhyme. It must have a beginning, middle, and end with rising tension, climax, and denouement. If micro-fiction is good, it is like sixty seconds of the best sex you ever had in your life. Get it wrong, and meh.

Do not think that Microfiction means you can stint on story or cut your characters.


Renshaw, Camille. "The Essentials of Micro-Fiction." Pif Magazine. PIF Magazine, 1 June 1998. Web. 20 Sept. 2014. <http://www.pifmagazine.com/1998/06/the-essentials-of-microfiction/>.

Sustana, Catherine. "What Is Flash Fiction, Anyway?" About Entertinment. About.com, 2014. Web. 20 Sept. 2014. <http://shortstories.about.com/od/Flash/a/What-Is-Flash-Fiction.htm>.


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Well It’s Been a Long Time

I'm not writing nearly enough, but summer is like that. My boys are home for summer vacation, and time wraps around them, their needs, and their lives.

Summer's coming to an end, and it's like standing at the helm of the Starship Enterprise with a whole crew of redshirts just itching to die in the name of grand adventure.

My sometimes addiction, sometimes mistress I call Writing beckons, promising all the sex, adventure, passion, and power a greedy mind desires.

Therefore, I am stepping back into the blogging with a new introduction and promise to myself.

Write something!

Somewhat Later

Never assume anything goes to plan. The old blog is toast, and a new blog is toasting.

Oh, yes.

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Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

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