This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By LESLIE W. QUIRK
CAROLINE E. LE CONTE
HOW TO WRITE A SHORT STORY .
TO WRITE A SHORT STORY AN EXPOSITION OF THE TECHNIQUE OF SHORT FICTION How BY LESLIE W.. QUIRK THE EDITOR PUBLISHING COMPANY 150 Nassau St. New York City 1906 .
N. . A/ i4~J*~+ COPYRIGHT. Y. 19041 BY EDITOR PUBLISHING COMPANY THE OUTING PRB86 DEPOSIT..
therefore. with good educations. without even the shield of the editorial "we. It is to these that I would appeal. to see their work who are failing merely because they are not familiar with the technique of the short story. material in the following pages is rather a series of suggestive talks than a scholarly dis- I leave to others the discussion of polish." I have addressed my .<ii at o? PREFACE THE course. In the following pages. a short story that will There are many writers throughout the country. ling. atmosphere. have aimed above tical. and with the ambition in print. with clear brains. I take for and artistic hand- my theme the writing of sell. I all else to be pracI have written in the first per- son.
Q.4 Preface reader directly. W. fit to appear between the covers of a reputable magazine. In a word. . L. in a desire to impress upon his mind the fundamental requisites of a salable short story. more or less systematically. every step by which an idea may be converted into a short story. I have endeavored to point out.
.. . .31 III THE INTRODUCTION THE STORY PROPER IV ..21 . 51 THE PREPARATION OF MANUSCRIPT 59 THE PLACING OF THE STORY 69 .. . PAGE 3 INTRODUCTION I .. 7 THE PLOT METHOD OF NARRATION n II .41 .TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER PREFACE .. . V VI VII CONCLUSION AND CLIMAX .. .
" I firmly believe. and when it is of a fair quality. The demand commands " half the rates of payment. chance in this field than in any other." says Jack London. Fiction.INTRODUCTION a good short story is is market unlimited. has a much better ner. "pays best of all. No other form of writing attracts half the attention nor NOWADAYS the a cash asset. There is not half enough to "The go around. acquire a modest kets for the short story. is literary begineasily sold. he has the chance to make a good living and fame. : Munsey great field to-day is for writers of fiction. steady. and the prices good. Every day that passes adds new marSays Frank A. most A and is if he possesses a fair education and in earnest. Publishers all over the world are reaching out for both short and .
the wish-appeasing genii are not abroad in the contrary this enlightened age." Nor is the call only for stories by well- They human known best authors. the are as fresh to-day with heart as they were in old Pompeii and countless ages before. "In my own case. will never lose their much charm." says William Dean . romance. The editors of the very magazines are constantly on the Mr. editor alert for new writers. says that were it not for these contributors "the magazine would languish in all its fine tissues for lack of the infusion of new blood. difficult Good ones are extremely Prices have gone up and up and up. tery.8 How to Write a Short Story long stories. myspleasure. adventure. Nothing to find. but the supply does not begin to equal the demand. appeals to so wide a class or gives so Love. he realizes that he must study the profession. On must fit himself for the work. is literary the one beginner who sucwho welcomes sugges- He knows instant." To-day the ceeds tions. he cannot turn author on the merely by wishing. Alden. of Harper's.
Those who were on the alert for offence.Introduction 9 " Ho wells." who could be best left to themselves were those who were most amenable to suggestion and even correction. but a little reflection will show that a large percentage of the novelists served an apprenticeship writing short stories. who resented a marginal note as a slight. It is true that all who can write short fiction cannot produce a readable book. and bowed gladly to the rod of the proofreader." In conclusion. who took the blue pencil with a smile. . it may not be amiss to suggest that the short story writer often becomes a novelist. Literature "I noticed that the contribuLife. were commonly not much more desired by the reader than by the editor. and tors in his recent book. and bumptiously demanded that their work be printed just as they had written it.
I THE PLOT .
with "To pay for your burial. would it How end? stumbled over that . morning. your imagination run "as wild as a spook on a spree. and mysteriously. and doubt if you have anything worth the telling. and suppose the boy who had been stolen were the king of Spain." Or suppose you bush there and dropped into a deep hole. of greenbacks in your hand. and place a the words. with a kid- napper aboard. Now.CHAPTER THE PLOT I IF some you want to write a short story. of Can't you work out the details what might happen? Or suppose that girl over there should silently roll come to you. go to bed early night. where you lay. let with the smell of nature in your nostrils. get up with the sun the next and take a long walk." Suppose that cloud up there were an air-ship.
Make it unique. Write love loves a lover. take a man Don't. I believe your first story will be sold because of its plot. story "All the world and editors are human. But make your love story one of action. and instead of water found a stream of red blood gurgling among the rocks. make it different from the other love . but I am going at this theme in a practical manner.14 How to Write a Short Story far below the surface. your must have a strong plot. So I say. Can't you make a story out of that? All this smacks of the sensational." stories. and a woman and a dozen meetings and an engagement. Nine first stories out of ten are. make it worth while. listening to the And supdrip! drip! of water near you. and are different from those of the rank and file. as many writers do. I grant. and the development illogYet the stories go right into the ically. is handled heart of things. if you want to get into print. The carelessly. pose you became thirsty and crawled nearer for a drink. and call it a story. the situalanguage tions clumsily.
flat. We get thousands of manuscripts. of himself. In this connection. meaningless. Munsey Co. not fiction in human want weak tales of sickly senti- mentality. not pretty writing. good stories are as rare as statesmanship. inane.The Plot 15 stories of yesterday and the day before. lack merely one thing. and yet of these stories are cleverly told. force. if you But wake up your reader. issued by the Frank A. alleged in which the story is not worth the stories. which there is a story We action. will. the following statement." many They is the In this statement lies the nucleus of . is of interest: "We want stories. to its contributors. telling. It may interest you to know that fully three-fourths of all the stories submitted nowadays or are rejected because of weak trite plot-interest. startle the editor and make him read it in spite it Make dramatic. not dialect sketches. melodramatic. as clam shells. and that story itself. not washed out studies of effete nature. as common Good writing is complications.
be told. but that it is something out of the rut. and build up the hollow your imagination. from a stray paragraph in a paper. In novels and in dramas there are a dozen skeins to be untangled. ginning of time. it must be sensational or impossible. from a scene on the street. something that has not been all I going to repeated again and again since the beinterest the editor something that shall and make the public glad that it has been written. but because it has something in it worth This does not mean that the telling. to places. and the edges that are not to. all with Your plot must be simple enough meet the requirements of a short story.16 How would to Write a Short Story Your first story is not say. or in any other way. You may will. in get your suggestion as you the night-time staring hard into the darkness. by any means. and a . be accepted because it has the grace and polish of a master-hand. but you must dress it up. The prime requisite in the manufacture of all such plots is imagination. and smooth off the corners that are impossible.
itself. Let me outline a few methods of obtaining the raw material. that a plots. time. Action is the fundamental requisite It transposes affecof a good plot. selling plot should bridge seeming impossibiltions ities a pleasing end. Sometimes the plot is the devel- opment of a hint or suggestion. brief. short story should concern itself with but one of these tangles. some- times the completion of an unfinished bit of action. and sometimes. over practically certain disasters to It should have unity of place and action. it should be compact and plausible. and situations from what they were at the beginning. an incident pened. indeed. Since the origin of advice.The Plot 17 dozen joyous reunions in the ter. The last chapor just before the curtain drops. precisely as it hap- . writers have been told to search the newspapers for It is probable. majority are secured through these mediums. more rarely. the molder's All these qualities are the result of skill. A good.
writer. ders. If writers would only concede that in many instances inspiration is only another name for inclination. soon runs Here the amateur flounshort of plots.. The man who writes the Nick Carter weeklies confesses that he forces his characters into some position from which escape. the experienced writer plods on the much with scarcely a pause. inspired writer. is responsible for many good In spite plots. writers are told to observe the unrecorded incidents of a busy world. e. Very naturally the voluminous i. cludes less praying of this nature. there are many sit at their desks. too. there would be for inspiration. the everyday events of their own lives. of turing plots. writers who a process for manufachowever. gazing blankly at the white paper and praying which in most cases insomething to write and the thoughts to clothe that something. by all the laws of . This method. If plots fail him for the moment. he creates situations that afford ample opportunity for dra- matic action.18 How to Write a Short Story Again.
and for the first time conceives some method by which the characters may once more acquire liberty and the privilege of In this more adventures. an exploding shell far overhead. or what you will. an air-ship. in plot pro- your mind. Then he leans back.The Plot 19 chance. begging a drink at the hermit's hut. inducer. consistent. discover him in her father's chicken-coop with a fat pullet under his arm. Or have the tourist. Or have a page from a diary. improbable. presumably elated over his skill. is impossible. There's material for a melodramatic tale. Have the country lass. whom the hero loves devoutly. There's material for an unique love story. method lies another Outline. flutter to her feet in some deserted place. There's material for a love comedy. and incidents necessary to make it altogether probable. . inconsistent. telling of a man's undying passion for a woman. preferlittle ably from a balloon. explainable. some situation. Then fit in the characters explicable. suddenly cringe at his feet.
but pot-boilers sell. "stuff" of a hack-writer. . and written your story. of course. just a "potboiler". to work out the if logical explanation. but your intellect is not equal to the task. And even when you have supplied your plot in this fashion.20 How to Write a Short Story It takes imagination. it will not be a It will be just the literary production. you have no business in the profession of writing fiction.
II METHOD OF NARRATION .
You must not go about writing it in a hapin mind. on the method here as I say." Don't write in the first person till the conceit of being a mainstay of a story is a thing of the past. you must decide And right of narration. hit-and-miss fashion.CHAPTER II METHOD OF NARRATION you must decide how your story is to be told. If you persist in one of the characters. just because you have an idea. are either a conceited ass or a person you of impossible intelligence. Telling a story in the first person is open to serious Either you must keep in objections. NOW First of that you have your plot well hazard. all. let me set down a few "don'ts. just study being You will find that in the story yourself. the background and only guess at going on around you. or else you is what must .
folding and even every sentence. Although they were in vogue a few is that years ago. absolutely every paragraph. Thirdly. accept Fourthly. You must not preach nor teach in your story. don't tell your story by the use of letters or diaries. there for them. don't attempt dialect stories. where you can see the full action and where you will be certain to indulge in bits of moralizing and criticising. In a short story. The one argument against this course fought at no magazine in the country will such a story. you must bring in details foreign to your plot. is now no market at all . It is just as impossible to narrate a good story in this manner as it is for an old soldier who Gettysburg to describe the charge up San Juan Hill. and the story that is not sharply condensed is hopeless.24 How to Write a Short Story put yourself in the middle of the stage. not even hint at such things. should be an unand a development of the plot. To be natural. don't allow an animal or inanimate object to relate the story. Secondly.
the man rises up bed and says: "I will now tell you then you find that about to begin. You observe from a distance. but the beginner has no right to handicap him- of my past. have a story within a All of us have read tales of a railroad wreck. and the girl who bandaged his head. Successful stories have been written along the above lines.Method of Narration 25 Fifthly. and the quaint old farmer really had nothing to do with the story proper. Just when in you get interested. with your hand on your puppets. free from irritating deviations from the central theme. and withal stronger and short stories The written in the third person." And is the real self by using these methods. You stand just behind the curtain. it is true. more interesting. Common sense should teach that this style is to be avoided. and there is no obtruding of your . and story that the wreck. don't story. best have been These are far more apt to be simple and direct. where in the course of a thousand words an injured man is carried to a farm house.
might. You must not err by putting down the thoughts of all your characters. This for the You ingness. slinking way of the person. that is bound to be a pleasant confirst trast to the affected. acters. In reality you mind of some one of your charYou can write of his actions. But even falls in this method there are pit- are apt to unwary. But there your power ends. fect and is a wrong view-point. . or of the narration within narration. living with just one You observe the others as he person. With the single of the one whom you push to exception the foreground. believe yourself a regular magician because you can create people out of nothto imagine you have a perto put down the innermost right thoughts of all your characters.26 How You to Write a Short Story personality. You are of his likes breathing. of his thoughts. are the and dislikes. of the diaries or letters. straightforward manner. you must make the minds of your people closed books. thinking. You don't know what they feel. tell your story in a perfectly natural.
it will fall After all. the relating of an incident covering only a brief period of time.Method of Narration 27 These rules hold true. critics will label your way of telling things "style. No matter what method of narration you may choose. only in the ideal short story. "The style that means most. and you put your individuality into it. and it is this very individuality that gives character to style and lifts it out of the rut of machine-made stuff." said Not long ago Mr. the presenting of a bit of real life. you must make up your mind at the outset to be simple and direct in telling your story. If you try to put style in your work. No man ever gets very far with the ." he averred. of course. If your writing is correct. Frank A. comes from a Every one who cuts figure in life has his own individuality. Munsey some good things in regard to this quality to the students of Yale University. style is more or less of a flat. and straight from the heart. "is that which man's own any soul. humbug.
Such a sentence as 'so purely dependent is the incipient plant on the specific morphological tendency' does not sound to my ears like good mother English lating. and express it in the commonest language which occurs to me." you will come to interesting the and attaining a good literary Charles Darwin once said to a young writer: "Do not despair about your never study style. all that I do style. is to I try to get the subject as clear as I can in my own head.28 How to Write a Short Story public who squares his of other writers. your story let is to plunge right into and the at- mosphere take care of itself. which it is sure to do in good time. It is a golden rule always to use. if possible." it wants trans- . a short old Saxon word. But I generally have to think a good deal before the simplest arrangement of words occurs to me. work to the slant "The best way to tell it. the you closer reader style. The closer can write to the way you talk.
who have gone lies beginner apes those before. He must learn to be himself. not affected. he is on the high road to success in literature. to make his writing. and as soon as A he learns that in his own individuality the only style he can hope to acquire. When he fully comprehends this fact. and begins to profit by it. .Method of Narration 29 I think there is nothing to add to the foregoing. but natural. except that style is largely a quality that comes only after much practice in writing. he sets about cultivating style.
your first two or three paragraphs, your story may be submitted to every periodical in the country without the slightest chance of acceptance. So much depends on the introductory sentences, from the viewpoint of the
Unless you can interest an editor
three-fourths of the
submitted are never read beyond
they are lacking in in-
terest here, the editor realizes that the
writer knows nothing about the fundamental principles of story-writing, and that what follows is practically certain to violate all its rules. Unless the bejects the
ginning interests him, therefore, he remanuscript promptly without
the value of a manuscript
to Write a Short Story
scans the introductory paragraph, if he finds that the writer plunges
into his story at the very outset he is interested enough to skim over the entire
story, the editor now turns to the last page and studies the con-
weak, the story
returned without further reading; but it ends with a quick, sharp turn, or in
a manner that suggests rapid dramatic
earlier in the story,
dips into the middle and glances over the other pages; not systematically, but
in a hop- skip- and- jump manner. Then, if the first promise is fulfilled, he leans
back and reads the story clear through. If he does this, the chances are all in favor of an acceptance, though some
warrant a rejection;
possibly, the tenor of the story
with his publication. the foregoing it will be seen you expect even a careful ex-
amination of your story, you must interest the editor at once. You cannot do this with a long description. You
Leave your descriptions until you have interested him. the descriptions are first will bored him at sifted in so adroitly that there is no lag- ging of movement. makes a handsome picture. for explanation read Your first sentence should plunge your reader into the action of your story. beautiful is Don't begin your story by having a maiden wondering if her lover true. or striking make an the reader anxious to sentences that enough further. in it by labeling your characimitation of a theater pro- gramme. " " Ninety per cent. In the ing explanation ideal short story. of the unavailable stories have one of these faults in their introduction. Don't be- gin by presenting a girl who is review- . You cannot do it by presenting familiar and worn-out situations. then what would have prove only a pleasof the situation. Don't begin by saying that the heroine. dressed in well-fitting clothes.The Introduction 35 cannot do ters. that are A good majority of those accepted begin with conversation that arouses interest.
do it by suggestion. that neither you nor a master-hand can keep your reader from knowing that the . or the charm of the weather. ten miles watching her away.36 flow to Write a Short Story ing her past life. Strive for originality stories. Make the man and woman so thoroughly in love with each other. but they illustrate the point I would make: that you must begin your story in a manner novel and original. if you would write acceptable girl faithless lover. All these have been done time and time again. girl A goodly number of the light little love stories of to-day need no setting beyond that suggested by the conversaIt is pure idiocy to dilate upon the beauty of the scene. through a telescope? Why not have the heroine dressed in brightest crimson and living in a convent? Why not have the Why not have the wondering if the man she just pushed in the cistern is dead? All these are far-fetched and extravagant. or the innermost feelings tion. If you must get these points into your story. I admit. of the characters.
you are in full possession of all you can't get this love story. It is the best practice in the world to method write a story without the use of any of presenting ideas except di- rect discourse. of course. a great stone structure high on a hill. Tear Did you ever study Hope's "Dolly Dialogues"? If so. happiness into failed. you have your it up and write it all over. although there is no direct information given or scenes described. thus: Suppose you been he loved was . nor that the sun shining its brightest. Yet the sary facts. wished to say that a man who had away for years from a girl approaching her house. There are times. when a description of the setting of your story is absolutely necessary.The introduction 37 scenery is magnificent. you have found that. If the neces- gleaned through the words and actions of the characters. stories start abruptly and go forward in a natural sequence of events. You might follow the beginner's example. nor that every sentence your lovers utter is bubbling is with sentiment.
debating with himself. could she but have known was even now approaching the house. But. a lover. Dorothy was not happy. who. For the last mile he had been sitting in the Your ear dull. and the man lifted his head with a jerk. not he looked ahead at the road that led straight up the hill to a house that stood on the summit. Would it not be more interesting if begun a little differently? For instance "The horse stopped suddenly." tells you that this is trite There is no reason to go on reading.38 How "The house of to Write a Short Story Dorothy Owens was a magnificent stone mansion. mounted on a mettlesome steed. more or less "But I must now explain bluntly: that years before this man and woman . no promise of anything better. in spite of its beauty. beautiful inside and out. Then he smiled and dug his saddle. It stood on a high hill. not caring seeing. and : whom he met. Years before she had had it. Now spurs into the horse. For a moment he stared at it." The one is objection to this latter method the necessity of saying.
any retrospection is apt to mar the artistic handling. that readers are a busy people. In writing.The Introduction 39 had been this lovers." "Well begun is . But even this objection may be overcome by the use of sug- enough of a clue gestive conversation that gives the reader to enable him to under- stand the situation. then. where enough complications are to be found to catch the interest. can be seen the truth of the trite old proverb. a short story should possess unity. who would have their stories served in condensed pellets if they could. as nowhere else. With quality of paramount importance. above all else. Remember. and that to win their approbation you must begin well along in your tale." Now. half done.
IV THE STORY PROPER .
There is a runaway. perhaps. any one of these counter-incidents would all make a short story. but of them together lack the fundamen- unity. There is a forest in which the lovers get lost together.CHAPTER IV THE STORY PROPER THE tion of ideal short story is the relaan isolated incident. and then shift scenes and seasons with bewildering rapidity to the very end. In a novel you may introduce your heroine in one chapter and your hero in another. which the man saves the girl's life. The ideal short story begins in one place and ends in that place. Now. But each of these in leads up to the climax the inevitable marriage of the two. It begins with a tal requisite of brief fiction certain number of characters and ends . There is an automobile wreck that drives them to a farmer's house for supper.
all else.500 mand As words without padding them unduly.44 How to Write a Short Story with that number. of course.000 words without condensing them so sharply as to destroy utterly their charm. is faulty Many of the stories that are sliced up in this fashion by beginners. the ideal short Above story is one complete chapter. or too tiny to de- a place at all. however. it is a unit. Whatever the length. Generally speaka short story should run between ing. an incident by happen- It may be any length. provided it is not too ungainly to crowd between the covers of a magazine. in all other things. You can't tell some stories in less than 5.000 and 6. isolated from the other ings of everyday life.000 words. really possess unity. and any plot that necessitates chapter divisions and had better be discarded. is largely a matter of demand rather than of choice. the ones that do not come close to either extreme are most apt to prove acceptable. Length. 1. and you can't stretch others above 1. It is itself. The divisions are .
scientific article. comments. A salable short story is less nothing more nor than a good plot . and never. Young writers have a habit of using scene The may a series of stars or dashes to indicate the There lapse of time in their stories. Thejgroper way to tell a short story is to draw a line "from the striking introductory sentence 'straight to the climax. information for the essay and and morals for the re- ligious article. stray bits of information. make his story more pre- be the same and no interruption to the action have taken place. or morals entirely foreign to the plot. deviate from that line. Perhaps the most common error of the young writer is the unconscious padding by the use of remarks. is The craze for chapter divisions a senseless one.The Story Proper 45 false. other than that the plot is wrongly constructed or that the writers err flatly. Remarks and comments are for the editorial. is no reason for this. and comes from a study of the novel. and are the result of the writer's idea that they sentable. by a hair's breadth.
do After you have acquired a in little ease your composition. without hurrying or lagging overmuch. most likely. No For two stories are alike in structure. or even less.46 How to Write a Short Story draped crudities enough without to soften the the naked general hiding beauty of form. that in writing a story you have a habit of completing it in 1. In either case. or to much it time in telling their admirably nearly to the end and then seemingly to tire and hurry through to the climax. and go about presenting it in specific advice as to the telling. or a thrill. You will find. natural manner. you are pretty sure to produce a story that will sell.000 words. a tear. is impossible to give But if you have something with a laugh. it this reason. you can easily discover your weakness and strive to correct it. you there are a dozen ways of telling the will find that same . or else taking five or six times that many. It to seems to be the fate of most writers have a tendency either to take up a great deal too story. a straightforward.
It is that that conversation grumpy and let person. adapt your style to that of the magazine. it may be worth while. have your plot well in mind. that on at editors are agreed. Now. erable to description. It seems to me that in this way you have a story exactly fitted to a certain line of publications rather than one adapted. I think I can offer no more forcible advice than that of the writer who said: "It is not necessary to say that a woman is a snarling. all always prefa good plan to go through a completed story and substitute the former for the latter wherever possible. is one point is. almost. finanAfter you cially." . pick up some magazine and study the structure of Then predominating stories. however. to anything published. You least will find. to try an experiment. and that your way is apt to be the one that comes to you most easily. and write your story with the idea that its it must follow precisely the model you have chosen. Bring in the old lady her snarl.The Story Proper 47 story.
" Little however. tell your story. It is this very thing that makes the poorly educated read stories. . In writing your story.48 How to Write a Short Story it But no matter how you must follow the general to a climax. These. the very thing that makes some people turn to the last up this chapter in a book before reading the others. rule of leading In its broadest sense. and if a story did not hold out the promise of a denouement or climax very few would read it. be illustrated by recalling a may good detective or mystery story. all suggestions whet the reader's appetite and make him eager to go on. to know why this character through inborn curiosity. the very thing that makes a child urge you to go on and on in telling a story merely the desire to see how it all comes out. Little the narrative. you must keep this always in mind." This method lacks deli- cacy and is certain to create disgust. should not be broad. did she think that ere the setting of another sun a great calamity would be upon them. It is really did that and that one this. therefore.
. like the snap of a whip. that your never guess how the story is to end. step by step. and then lead him on. sharp and Strike out along reader may clear.The Story Proper 49 new lines. till the climax comes.
V CONCLUSION AND CLIMAX .
But if you stop at the proper place.CHAPTER V CONCLUSION AND CLIMAX WHEN the your story is ended. stop. your reader will never think of the possibility of such things. Lead your reader up to the engagement and drop the curtain abruptly on the scene of bliss. teurs have a habit of closing a love story something like this: "She looked up at him. Don't ramble on and tell how man built a magnificent home and how the two turtle doves lived there for years and years. with the love . The chances stocks swallowed are that later a flurry in up all the man's wealth and that the white hands of the girl turned brown and chapped over the wash board. it will ruin it all. If you tack on a remark after your Amastory is ended.
Let us look for a moment at what climax accomplishes. it ends definitely the element of suspense.54 How to Write a Short Story light in her eyes. this The conclusion of all has been the single word. then. and complications and desperate moves. "Yes. all the ideas are cen- tered on the winning of the girl's hand." cot- Now. and drew her close." In the story suggested by the foregoing conclusions. and has hoped and feared been another with the hero. and pressed kiss after kiss on her eager lips. Everything has led up to the proposal and acceptance. and is has given rise to the kind of writing that the phrase. Earlier in the tale. is the climax. the reader has seen what is coming. And finally. busily planning a tage for the future. there has lover. perhaps. Secthis . ever so softly. and 'Yes. the two walked back little to the village. All through. First. just at twilight." What follows is anticlimax. properly this story ends with the word "Yes. "sickly sen- timentality. his arms around her.' Then he put said." This.
Conclusion and Climax 55 ondly. to followed you home one night. and slunk in the shadows when you stopped. does so through the ingenuity of the writer rather than through a logical appeal to the sensibilities. to fulfill all the may never drag. is a logical explanation of the cause all of the previous action. It is clever. It should come clear and sharp. at your doorstep. and you saw only your Newfoundland dog. before the impression it leaves has been counterbalanced by tedious and dull explanations. invariably it Though may amuse. but not artistic. You should then be able to finish your story before the sound has died out. like the snap of a whip. it decides the destinies of the characters. it is the severing it of all connection with the plot. therefore. requirements. Fourthly. A climax should The climax " surprise it in " story what is is known as the false. Thirdly. or that after smoking the drugged . Fifthly. it is the point of the whole story. and that he ran write that a man toward you suddenly. It really be said.
True. The is that single good point about this class its stories seldom deal with real In spite of all the hue and cry for realistic fiction. but they do it. you suddenly it was all a dream. But these stories are written by experienced authors. and that you lay there quivering until you fell asleep and woke the next morning to laugh over cigar. whose positions are secure. not because tragedy appeals to them. and allowing the slip to the floor as you pocketbook to agination. the best tragedy. The your active imclimax in all these will not pass stories is false. but because the telling is too artistic to risk rejection. or that in the middle of the night. . magazines give space to tragic stories. it is the stories with happy endings that sell. in other words. you felt certain that some assailant near at hand was about to murder you in cold blood. and muster with a critical editor. The beginner should shun the sad ending. the manner overbalances the matter.56 How to Write a Short Story became unconawoke and found scious. by some intuitive process.
is probable that you will see to it that this part has merit. If you will keep always in mind the fact that the editor studies your conit clusions to see whether the story proper is worth an examination. again. your whole story may be paragraph or two. The conclusion of any story is worthy It of the very best efforts of a writer. remember. Nine times out of ten. and makes him decide whether or not the story is worth while. he will characterize your . or culmination of the plot. If you end tritely.Conclusion and Climax 57 The Here. It is the conclusion. for it embraces the climax. is really the story itself. you must put in a generous seasoning of the untrue and transform the climax altogether. discovered by reading your last It takes but a glance at this point to indicate its nature. at all. causes a good share of the trouble. reader's that leaves the taste in the mouth. it is the conclusion that a narrative that ends as you and the To make it artistic editor would wish. In real life. it is next to impossible to find true story should also be avoided.
if you round your story artistically. .58 How to Write a Short Story whole composition as trite. he will be apt to consider all that has gone before as off artistic.
VI THE PREPARATION OF MANUSCRIPT .
the editorial it is ready to be dressed up in a fetching manner for eye. when you might An editor's print it on four thin sheets. .CHAPTER VI THE PREPARATION OF MANUSCRIPT WHEN brought it best you have expended your energies on your story. Moreover. you are stringing a thousand. and by careful revision have to the highest degree of ex- cellence of which you are capable. all. compare with the printed letters of the machine. Fine clothes do not make an acceptance. You must now recopy it in such a way that no mark of your workmanship in recasting and reconstructing will show.word story over how you can't great pads of paper. any more than they make a gentleman. but they command respect in both cases. your manuscript should be neatly and correctly typewritten. I First of don't care legibly you may write.
62 How to Write a Short Story economized as much as possible. This is done for two reasons. who has never studied the sub- ject of writing. and the thoughtfulness of the writer who seeks to make easier the task by double spacing his . First. it should be doubly spaced. Penscripts are signs of Editors appreciate this young writers do. Munsey is said to get three thousand if manuscripts each month. it is much easier on the eyes the lines are not close together. He knows. Of course. fact. the better will be their chances of sucIn typewriting a manuscript. time is and he that the careful. inexperience. furthermore. by a great many readers for the company. experienced writer will send him type copy. and the sooner cess in literature. will run through three typewritten stories sooner than plod through one penscript. The strain on the eyes will be these are handled readily apparent. and that the chances are ten to one that the script is full of blunders and errors common to the beginner. but at the same time one man has to read a large number of them.
be on the first page.The Preparation of Manuscript 63 work will be appreciated. the name and address should be added in It is much the upper. . the space between the lines gives plenty of room for correction. imperative that the in At all events. better to do this with the machine than names with a pen. Nothing that will serve to lessen the left work of an editor should be is undone. left-hand corner. be fairly accurate. indeed number of words in the average line. It should. howCount the ever. This estimate need not it is foolish to say the contains 3. though some disa- gree on this point.449 words. or any manuscript other precise number. be exact. that the story Now typewritten. Again. The number of words should now be estimated and placed in the upper righthand corner. me that there is no reason for a signature on the manuscript. it is name and address. if a manuscript can be made acceptable by changing it somewhat. some form. as most people write their so hurriedly that it is almost im- It seems to possible to decipher them.
page of your manlike uscript will now appear something J.64 How to Write a Short Story number of lines on a page. Blank City. A soiled manuscript tells its own story of previous rejections. an affectation countenanced neither by good sense nor good business ability.plume. THE REVOLT OF UNCLE JOHN. as it enables him to tell at a glance the amount of space the story would occupy top of the The this: first in his magazine. 3>5 words. ciate this courtesy. No allowance should be made for short lines. it should be placed here. If he is writing under a nom-de. the it is easy to get the approximate length of the The editor will apprestory. Y. D. . and invites others. N. In this way. Banner. By JAMES DARKEN BANNER Just beneath the title of the story should be placed the name of the author as he wishes it to appear in print. and the number of pages.
a very brief one may be are on the . A stamped. A size has a Never fasten great many advantages. to be shuffled as the editor finds need. one to fit within the other with. folded twice. or recopy it on clean paper. They should be loose. Two sizes of envelopes should be purchased.The Preparation of Manuscript 65 "You tage of an unfair advanan editor. you renovate your muchare not taking traveled manuscript. As a matter of courtesy. light in ied should be of weight. out folding. it." The paper on which the story is copgood texture. however. If the name and first address of the writer page. self addressed envelope should accompany every manuscript. but not about 8J by n. so long story as it is presented to him invitingly. You are taking an unfair insulting the advantage of your manuscript when you do not do editor." says Albert Bigelow " when Paine. transparent. the sheets of your manuscript together in any way. and you are who does not care where your or article or poem has been. no explanatory note is necessary.
Dear Sir: The enclosed manuscript is submitted with the hope that it may be found available for publication in The Blank Magazine. Blank Magazine. If an editor finds the sheets of your story lightly gummed together. your manuscript will be con- . your second may But if you have good material. Editor. Never display your lack of common sense by any of the petty little tricks common to the writers who believe their manuscripts are not read. If is dull.66 How to Write a Short Story sent. Your manuscript will be read if it is your first page never be read. served up in such a way that the reading is more of a pleasure than a task. he will not take the Neither will trouble to separate them. He knows they will never be able to please him with their work. worth while and properly prepared. he sort out pages not properly numbered. at your usual rates. It should be somewhat along the following lines: New York City. He cannot afford to waste time on writers who stoop to such detestable actions.
without exception. their positions in current literature by pure merit. . Albert Bigelow Paine. and a great many of the best authors of the day.The Preparation of Manuscript 67 sidered on it is signed or by John Brown. by Rudyard Kipling I have had the pleasure of reading manuscripts by such writers as Jack its merits. whether London. and example in the preparation of copy worth following. and I say unhesitatingly that their copy. was the neatest and most correct that ever came under my These men have won their is eye. Charles Battell Loomis.
VII THE PLACING OF THE STORY .
some of pronounced abil- given up the literary profession because they were unable to sell their work. I say that the selling is well nigh as important as the writing. after you have spent hours over it. writers.CHAPTER VII THE PLACING OF THE STORY RANK the ability to sell a story I nearly as high as the ability to Unless you can diswrite one. To place a story to good advantage. you must know the market through and through. in Everybody's. in every other magazine that . You must know wherein those found in McClure's differ from those in Munsey's. your work counts for I have seen a great many nothing. It is not enough to know that the leading ten-cent magazines use love stories. who have For this reason. in The Cosmopolitan. young ity. pose of your manuscript.
humor. You must learn to note whether action. If plot fea- ture takes its place. It is only in this fully way that you can become ac- quainted with the magazines. You must know the shades of difference that separate The Youth's Companion and St. it is literary market. character drawing. When you begin to de- the points in which the editorial needs and whims differ. and The Smart Set. or any one of a dozen other qualities is responsible for the accept- ance and publication of every story you you find stories that lack altogether. The Woman's Home Companion and The Ladies' Home tect Journal. Harper's. rather than its adaptability for any magazine. complications. you must discover what read. Nicholas. A great number of students in . style. If you write your business to make a systematic and thorough study of magazines that use short fiction. you are in a position to become acquainted with the stories.72 How to Write a Short Story has a personality. Too many young writers consider the ease with which a story may be written.
You must judge your own work honestly and without prejudice. and one that is fit only for the newspapers and syndicates. but which is entirely out of line with the needs of any magazine. They had absolutely no chance of acceptance. and a study of the magazines would have shown the folly of submitting such manuscripts.The Placing of the Story 73 high schools and colleges write fiction which is praised by classmates and teachers. however. which the boys played pranks would shock the good mothers and fathers of proper children. Nicholas. I have seen stories that were offered to such publications as The Youth's Companion and St. These stories were about boys. You must be able to distinguish between a story adapted to Harper's and The Century. Not only must you know the market but you must know your own work. and in that for this reason their writers imagined them fitted for the publications to which they were sent. A story fresh from your brain will . and which may really be good from an artistic standpoint.
The question of timeliness is one that should be studied. particularly if your hearer is capable of criticising. from some one who was capable of judging it. the friends who laud your work fects usually do not appreciate either the deor the merits. An unprejudiced criticism of your story will benefit you more than anything else in this matter of choosing a market. A would rather have an unbiased. The and crude portions will become discernible in a way they never would otherwise. than all I the praise in the world. season has a much story that fits the better chance of ac- A ceptance than one which may be used . honest opinion of my story. As a matter of fact. You will be able to pass upon its merits more impartially if you put cools. good critic is of inestimable value. it away will until your find enthusiasm that it You also read your good practice stories aloud to some other person before is to defects you submit them to any magazine.74 How to Write a Short Story sound better than one that has been aside for a laid day or two.
terday dialect stories were the style. Christmas A fairly original Yule-tide story. In considering the type of character of stories. A great many writers overlook this fact alto- stories are usually gether. stands a very good chance of acceptance. you will be stealing a less experienced and less ob- serving writers. an Independence at Day story in the July number. Like stories follow the fashions. or a good Fourth of July tale. weak in plot. a second side of the question of timeliness also plays a part. Readers expect a Christmas story in the December magazine. To-day the . the day before romantic fiction. the day before that. they have been done with a regularity that has exhausted all ideas.The Placing of the Story 75 any time and is of equal literary value. offered during the summer months. If you will remember that stories should be submitted from three to six months before the issue of the magazine in which they march on should appear. Yesclothes. submitted during the first quarter of the year. bald realism. and seasonable fiction at all times.
papers. By keeping a close watch on in vogue. please Some one has said that there is a place is what for every story. The and magazines brighten fiction. bad or indifferent. The household and and short class domestic journals run stories. good. religious papers their pages with The juvenile publications serials pay excellent prices. you can more easily the editor. the pamphlet publications that do not for little pay ex- contributions.. Even the give space to fiction. syndicates. this statement is true. For no class of work is the market as wide as for the short story. lie Between these purchase tremes hundreds of magazines. papers throughout the country offer good markets. The several syndicates pur- publications Hundreds of news- chase liberally and pay well. at the bottom.76 How that to Write a Short Story stories border on recognition. Just below the best magazines are the literary weeklies. To-morrow history claim the style may change. To a great extent. is written. At the top stand the that best magazines. that stories. etc. .
only to place better market than I the beginning. is unworthy of the name. will You not the bull-dog tenacity to stick to it. "may come back again and again. but if he perseveres. rejections discourage you. lots of them. you have no business in the literary profession.The Placing of the Story 77 meet rebuffs in placing your work. The author may rewrite it over and over." says Albert Bigelow Paine. and to go on hoping and believing in yourself. and the offering is genuine. no doubt. or the poem. or two. it will find its I have had place and welcome at last. The author who gives up after one rejection. to meet each returning manuscript with a smile." THE END . or ten. You will grow discouraged. stories and poems returned to me as many as fifteen them at last in a had hoped for in times. before you dispose But if you have of your manuscript. or the article. Nor should "The story.
advice as to strengthening. be mailed to any Editor Publishing Co. correcting. mastery of technique. departments. Notices of Notices of Notices of Also conducts a literary bureau under direct supervision of Leslie W. and full particulars of literary bureau. syndicate. together with a list of magazines.A Journal of Information for Writers IT PUBLISHES: Contributions of prominent authors Articles on story writing Articles Articles on versification on marketing manuscripts Hints on preparing manuscripts Notes from editors stating needs all all all new publications suspended publications timely editorial needs Lists of magazines that want manuscripts Complete monthly report on literary market Answers to literary queries. in which is offered expert criticism of manuscripts. is best adapted. Quirk. etc. will address for ten cents. etc. Estab- Sample copy of The Editor. revising. 150 Nassau Street New York City . containing more information for writers than any school offers.. or newspaper markets for which each lished 1895.
02079 JV&78455 THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY .
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.