Tuesday, September 27, 2011
NPR had a 600 word three-minute short story contest running recently. The rules were simple. The 600 word maximum, and the completed story had to have someone arriving into a town and someone leaving a town. All the other story essentials had to be there. Theme, intent, conflict, heart, a beginning, a middle and an ending. Don’t forget solid characterization, coupled with a proportioned balance of narrative and dialogue. Make no never-mind what genre you write -- drills working within similar constraints can build word selection muscle and overall ability to better focus on your story.
Another drill was out there on-line in the past month or so, again with a max word count, but 80% of them had to be corralled in quotation marks, and the last line had to be “This is all about the bicycle, isn’t it?” Exercises are all about building skills. When was the last time you heard of a defensive safety saying to an opposing wide receiver “I can rip that ball out of your hands -- watch me do 75 push-ups in less than three minutes to prove it?” Drills and exercises aren’t about the specifics of your story or your characters: it’s about being astute and strong enough to pick the right words at the right time when working your novel on a proverbial game day.
Some heads-up stuff.
The 2011 Texas Book Fair in Austin is October 22 and 23. 6th Street will be packed, as will every UT venue able to seat 100+ authors, publishers, agents, newbie writers and readers. Seriously -- do this fair at least once in your lifetime. Where else could you eat lunch, and the people at the table next to you are in an heated discussion over the use of dangling participles?