Posted by Liese Sherwood-Fabre on Friday, August 3, 2012 Under: Guest Posts
So you've written a fine short story. You know it has the potential to grow into a great novel. But a novel is not just flash fiction with extra padding. Is it? So what, exactly, do you do? Novelist Liese Sherwood-Fabre faced that challenge and in this week's guest post she reveals the four careful steps she took to turn 800 words into a 10,000-word novella.
In his book Stein on Writing, Sol Stein describes the editing process as “liposuction,” removing the flab from a story. But what do you do when a story needs silicon instead of liposuction?
In other words, how do you successfully expand a short story into a much longer tale?
As a writer of flash fiction, I have disciplined myself to make every word count, so when I decided to take an 800-word piece and turn it into a novella, I knew major enhancement would be required.
I recalled an interview I’d heard with Orson Scott Card about his novel Ender’s Game. This had originally been a short story, and when he decided to expand it, he realized the story needed to start earlier, providing more motivation and history to the main characters.
The Five Key Story Elements
To apply this to my own story, I started by considering the original piece and identified the various elements of the story using Anne Lamott’s ABCDE formula (Action, Background, Conflict, Development, and Ending):
Action — Start with something happening to draw the reader into the story.
Background — Provide context for readers to understand how the characters came to the current situation
Conflict — The characters must want something they don’t have and work to achieve it (sometimes against each other)
Development — The 70-80% of the story describing the characters’ struggle to get what they want. Each time it appears they have the goal within reach, give them something more difficult to overcome until they reach the climax
Ending — What happens after they reach their goal. In a romance, the hero and heroine realize their “happily-ever-after”. In a mystery or thriller, all the loose ends are tied up. In a literary story, the ending may be rather ambiguous
With the original story now dissected, I then followed these steps:
1) I determined where the current story fit into the enhanced one.
Because I wanted to keep the original story as the climax (the piece just before the “Ending”), I needed to work on expanding and adding scenes for the first four plot elements--A through D.
2) I built the new story around the original scene.
Taking my cue from Orson Scott Card, I first pondered the background of these two characters—the motivations and goals that had brought them to that point in the story. By more fully developing this information, I actually envisioned ways to increase the conflict between them and make the climax more dramatic.
As I wrote these new scenes, I realized I was creating pages of back story instead of “in-the-moment” action scenes. To solve this problem, I wrote a new inciting incident (Lamott’s “Action”) beginning and advanced the story from that point to the climax.
3) I added dialogue and description to create richer scenes and move the story forward.
Once I had the basic skeleton of my enhanced story in place, I included more dialogue and description. In flash fiction, description might be limited to only one short sentence to set a scene or describe a character. I included additional details to create much richer scenes, and before I knew it, my over-10,000-word story was done.
4) I made every word count.
Just as with any story, however, the draft must be edited and the writing tightened to create a polished piece worthy of submission. Whether 800, 8000, or 80,000 words, tight writing increases interest and maintains the pace.
No, a novel or novella is not just a short story with extra padding. It must be as tightly constructed as flash fiction. But follow the four-step plan above and your 80,000 word novel may glow as brightly as your tale of 3000 words!
Liese Sherwood-Fabre grew up in Dallas, Texas and knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live internationally for more than fifteen years — in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career and has published several pieces. Her debut novel Saving Hope, a thriller set in Russia, is now available from Musa Publishing. Click here to watch its YouTube trailer.
In : Guest Posts
Tags: plotting flash fiction structure
blog comments powered by Disqus<