Other Cool Blogs: D.B. Jackson 8/12/2020

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Is there meat on those bones?

Going into summer, it’s time to break out the grills and BBQ sauces. Hamburgers and steaks already fragrant the air on Sundays here in the South. Fish and ribs less so, as those need a smoker and breaking out a smoker means a Crowd is needed for the resulting disgorging of meats.

Ribs need meat on the bones to be worth the hassle.

Just like a writing idea needs meat on the bones to be worth the hassle.

As you know, this year I’ve been working on catching up on all the writing the pandemic smothered under worry, concern, and change from the normal. 2019-201 were barren years for the blog, but I’ve caught up with nearly all of it at this point except for the flashes.

Those are getting filled in quicker than expected thanks to a Facebook group I belong to doing a weekly flash using a word or a visual. Well, we started with a word or visual, but no one responded to the word prompts so we have switched to 100% visual prompts. Since the point of them for the group is to kick-off writing, not substitute for a Work-In-Progress, the group asks people to limit themselves to around 50 words.

This makes them short, very short, maybe too short to tell a story. Most of the time I end up doing just vignettes, scene descriptions, a world-building blink, or character sketches. Creating a STORY – beginning, middle, and end – a growth arc for characters – something changing or developing – a true flash, that is difficult.

When I worked on an anthology for LTGBQ+, I reviewed a lot of character sketches. Writers honoring people they knew, explaining how LTGBQ+ might think, a situation they lived through or were told about (a news article). Very, very few of the submissions were STORIES.

D.B. Jackson describes his trials with working through anthologies submissions looking for stories instead of noodling-out an idea to see if it has meat on its bones. The 8/12/2020 post is titled “Writing-Tip Wednesday: Short Fiction Anthologies – When Does an Idea Become a Story?

Many of the ideas I test out in flashes appearing here don’t have enough meat to become a story. And many of the ideas done even have the meat to be flashes. Let’s break down some of the things that aren’t stories.

To be a story, a reader needs to connect. There should be a beginning, middle, and end. A character development arc should occur, as well as the beginning-middle-end rise and fall of action/activities. A point or theme helps strengthen the base of the plot. Most importantly, something happens, something progresses, something changes.

News Article – Relating an event. It doesn’t need reader engagement and often only the end of the story is reported, not the beginning and middle.

World-building blink – I love my world-building and sometimes I just write down a definition or rule set for a new world.

Character sketches – Like world-building, and more common with most writers, a character definition, sometimes shown through a vignette.

Scene descriptions – More about the description than what is happening within the scene. Again, no beginning, middle, nor end. The concentration is on the Now.

Vignette – A scene description, but more about the emotional reaction it provokes. Reader engagement is much higher than the previous options, but there is no rise or fall of action. The story is still focused on the now.

Recent story categories:

Hotties – This flash is somewhere between a story and a vignette. The main character is on the cusp of making a change. At less than 200 words, this needs words to make more meat.

Claims a Warrior’s Heart – Over 1,500 words, we got a story with meat. I snuck in poetry and many of the characters are well defined.

Not all who wander – 879 words of character sketch. Yeah, it’s slightly more than a character sketch, but nearly everything happening is defining the main character as a character.

Long Loop – 262 words and a worldbuilding blink.

Elementary – This is clearly a vignette. All about the emotions.

Light – A scene description. (The visual prompt below it crosses into a vignette.)

Pizza and Movie Night – 123 words … and a full story. A change in expectation, a decision made. A beginning, middle, and end. It’s possible even for the shortest wordings, but doesn’t happen often.

Again, the article is: https://www.dbjackson-author.com/2020/08/12/writing-tip-wednesday-short-fiction-anthologies-when-does-an-idea-become-a-story/

WRITING EXERCISE: Look over some of your short works. Are they full stories, or is something lacking making them fall into other categories. Give two examples in comments, linking to your blog or wherever you have posted the manuscripts.