Masters of the modern short story

Writers searching for succinct reminders for improving their short stories will appreciate the efforts of Alan Mahar, director of Tindal Street Press in Birmingham, West Midlands, UK. Mahar asked some of his authors to describe exactly how their favorite short-story writers mastered techniques of the form. Their answers—go get ’em—are available as free downloads on the publisher’s website.

In a lesson titled “Be Indirect,” Alan Beard explains how the technique of being surreptitious is used by the writer William Trevor in a story about a mother who remains unaware that her daughter has been molested:

‘Good News’ in fact is a perfect example of the oblique approach. The child abuse is central but is never referred to directly. This makes it all the more powerful because it suggests how such things can slip by unnoticed in real life, also the reader is left with the horrible task of thinking about what might have happened.

The 10 downloadable lessons focus on concepts that should be familiar to the point of being instinctive for fiction writers. If not, there’s work to be done—and a nice long weekend ahead in which to do it.

6 Replies to “Masters of the modern short story”

  1. Thanks for the links to OnlineUniversities–I enjoy something meaty to listen to on my IPod when I’m on the treadmill at the gym. And I appreciate your link to the author ‘lessons’ from Tindale Press. There’s so little about short story writing, compared with all the books about writing novels.

  2. The gym… I remember that place. (laughing) You must be conditioning for another of your incredible back-country vacations, Marsha.

    I shared with one of my clients a fine essay about short stories, Frederick Reiken’s “The Legacy of Anton Chekhov: What It Means to Say ‘Chekhovian’ & Why His Stories Still Serve as a Blueprint for the Stories We Write Now,” which appeared in the December 2009 issue of the Writer’s Chronicle.

    You and Sylvia might also appreciate the humor in a website I just added to my blogroll: Self Editing Blog by John Robert Marlow.

  3. Only a small trip this time–up the local Mount Solitary and back. I’ll look for the Chekhov story. And thanks also for pointing to the Self Editing Blog. It looks educational AND humorous. I’ll enjoy reading his views.

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