November 30th, 2008


Where do short story ideas come from?

matociquala's brain is not being forthcoming with the short stories at the moment. Not a shortage of ideas in this case, but in one of the comments, someone did ask where short story ideas came from. green_knight is also wondering about short stories, namely how to generate short story ideas. matociquala, of course has many successful novels to her name also numerous short stories; I'm still only very slightly published so anything I say comes with a caveat.

I don't have too much of a problem creating short stories to order, in fact often some kind of random prompt gets my brain working. The short I sold to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight magazine started life as a fun activity on a Babylon 5 Usenet group. The challenge was to write a story that would include all the titles of the episodes of one season. Thus the story was created around a random selection of words and phrases. Most of them got edited out when I decided that the story was worth polishing and submitting, but there may still be one or two lurking in there. :)

I'm also not having too much difficulty thinking up stories for the exercises and assingments for the creative writing course -- well, apart from the terminally dull suggestions that assume we're writing a mainstream or literary novel, but even there I managed to put a boring accountant on a moon base. In fact subverting what's expected is a profitable source of ideas. The one I'm working on now for the second assessed assignment is based on the prompt "an invisible wound". The hint given said, "‘an invisible wound’ is likely to revolve around one or perhaps two people affected by a secret." Oh, no it's not, not in my case. Letting my brain lose with the phrase "invisible wound" sent it off in entirely different directions. :)

Another useful method of generating short story ideas is the random plot generator, which I found either via a mention on Usenet or here, I can't remember which, and a random word generator suggested by the tutor on the OU course. I used both to give me character and scenario for another writing exercise about a gold miner.

So it's not the idea part I find difficult for short stories, it's actually getting the thing written, especially in finding a good ending, one that isn't trite or too obvious or one of those endings where the story just stops and the reader goes, "Huh?"

I also find them much more hard work, per word, than a novel. They never manage to build up any momentum because by the time they've got going, they're over. I seem to have to push them all the way, uphill, both ways. In fact I'm poking one now that I need to finish by Christmas because it's for one of the assignments for the creative writing course I'm taking, but it's being very coy and only giving me a few words per day. So far I've already done as much research -- including a trip to visit a castle and take photos -- than for any novel and I still only have 254 words to show for it. Just another 2000 to go!
View from study (sunny)

Royal Photographic Society's LRPS

I think I've mentioned it a couple of times in passing, but not explained it fully, anyway green_knight requested more details, so here they are.

The Royal Photographic Society have these qualifications, the bottom level of which is the Licentiateship, known as the LRPS. There are basically two ways you can achieve this. As it says on the RPS's web site:

The Licentiateship is awarded either for competence in practical photography, or by passing of an appropriate examination in photography recognised by The Society.

Basically you need a set of 10 photos. The tricky thing is, the photos have to work well as a set in addition to being good photos in their own right, so you don't necessarily just choose your 10 best shots, some judicious mixing and matching is required.

I am vaguely putting together a set, though when I have something approaching a set, I will need to see about going along to one of their Distinctions Advisory Days or Workshops to get some feedback.

[Edited to remove link to a Flickr set that I hadn't realised was friends/contacts only. Apologies to anyone who might have tried to view it.]

Examples of the kind of thing that is required are available if you ferret around on the RPS web site. You can also download an interactive thingy that allows you to pick photos from a bunch and arrange them into what you think is the best possible set.

One reason I was so pleased with the shots I took yesterday was that I set out deliberately to capture something not unlike what I achieved. The same goes for the shot of the barn. Previously when I've taken good photos, it's been largely a matter of chance and grabbing the moment, which is a useful skill, but it's also nice to be able to plan a shot and then get what I intended.