Why Are Short Stories So Hard to Write?

Let’s talk about short story writing! On the one hand, short stories are simpler than novels because – as the name implies – they are short. On the other hand, the target is a lot smaller which means the margin for error is a lot bigger.

I’ve compiled a few of the things that I think make short stories a specific breed of difficult, and also a few notes on my personal process for writing them. Obviously, everyone’s creative process is different, but I’ve discovered that it’s actually harder to find solid resources on short story writing, opposed to long-form stories like a novel.

At the end of the day, short stories are a challenge because they don’t always (or in my experience, ever) fit the traditional three-act structure. That might sound crazy coming from someone who talks about story structure a lot, but it’s true. Depending on how short your story is, it’s probably not going to have a clearly defined first, second, and third act – at least not in the same capacity that a novel about the same topic, character or situation would. On the flipside, examining your short story through the lens of the three-act structure can be beneficial as well.

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Music: Twine by Podington Bear © Chad Crouch

Hacks to Find (And Identify) First Editions of Your Favorite Books + Book Giveaway!

A Piece of My Book CollectionLet’s talk about collectible books! First things first: Did you know there’s a difference between a first edition and a first printing? Both are cool, but many collectors prefer the first printing to the first edition. I’ll tell you why, and relay a few hacks I’ve discovered in my own book collecting pursuits to help you find and identify first and collectible editions of your favorite titles.

Happily by Chauncey Rogers

But first, it’s book giveaway time! If you follow me on Twitter, you know I promised a giveaway of a signed copy of Happily by Chauncey Rogers. Listen to the show to find out how you could win a copy!

Book Recommendations from this Episode:

  • Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co. by Jeremy Mercer
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
  • Happily by Chauncey Rogers [Giveaway book!]
  • A Prayer Journal by Flannery O’Connor

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? With Special Guests Josiah and Benji!

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a novel by Philip K. Dick. It’s also the inspiration for the movie Blade Runner, although I wouldn’t have guessed it by the title. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time, and as it turns out, so have fellow book enthusiasts Josiah and Benji. Join us as we discuss everything from plot to themes to the wine we’re drinking while we review it – and if you like what you’ve heard here, let me know by leaving Plotboilers a review on iTunes, following me on Twitter, and sharing your thoughts in the comments below! (Seriously, I love hearing from you guys. It makes my day.)

Wine mentioned in this episode: 2015 Château de Brandey Bordeaux  

NOTE: As per usual, Plotboilers discusses story elements. This means you’re going to hear about plot points, characters, etc. If you want to pick up Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and read with completely fresh eyes, pause the podcast, read the book, and then give it a listen. Otherwise, my goal is for you to be able to enjoy the book after listening, too!

Book Recommendation of Happily by Chauncey Rogers (And I Narrated the Audiobook!)

Happily by Chauncey RogersToday, I’m discussing Happily by Chauncey Rogers – a brand new YA retelling of the classic fairytale, Cinderella.  I know what you’re thinking: Why would I want to read a book if I already what happens? Well, I can promise you don’t know what’s going to happen in this one. I’ve actually had the pleasure of reading Happily about five times. Why? Because Chauncey asked me to perform the audiobook of Happily and the opportunity was too good to pass up.

While I’d love to talk about how much fun it is to narrate (and how my neighbors probably think I talk to myself a lot), what I’m really excited to talk about is how Happily’s protagonist got me thinking about females in YA literature. Spoiler alert: More often than not, they fail to fit the glass slipper of my critical expectations. Happily, on the other hand, gives readers a little bit more to think about than most fairytales – so let’s dive in!

Happily is available now on Amazon, and I will let you know when the audiobook is released!

If you like what you’ve heard on Plotboilers, drop me a rating and review on iTunes! Seriously, it means the world to get your feedback, plus it helps other people find the show.

A Wrinkle In Time Book Review

A Wrinkle In Time Book ReviewIt’s Plotboilers’ tenth episode! In honor of my longstanding “don’t see the movie before you’ve read the book” tradition, I’m taking a look at A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s a short book, but there’s a lot to talk about so I’m going to cover characters, body image, and how the story depicts religion. Most importantly, I’m here to prove it’s never too late to finish your fourth-grade reading list.

How to Create Book Reviews People Want to Read

Creating a good book review isn’t easy.  I know, I know – it all boils down to personal opinion, right? Well, kind of. The way I see it, book reviews are a balancing act between personal feelings and critical feedback. In one of my recent podcast episodes, I recommend Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Clothing of Books” but hesitated to call it a review.The reason is simple: I just gave my opinion; I didn’t offer any critical feedback about her work. As far as I can tell, that’s the biggest difference between a recommendation and a review.

I did the same thing in my 2017 Halloween episode but under different circumstances. In that situation, I had a list of books I enjoyed but didn’t spend very much time talking about them. With less real estate in the episode for each story, I didn’t have the space to analyze them critically. Hence, recommendations.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of my process, I want to clarify something: People don’t just read book reviews. They also watch and listen to them. Mine, for instance, are in the form of a podcast. That’s because I love podcasts and enjoy absorbing book reviews (and books) by listening to them. When I use the word “read,” I’m talking about principles that apply to blogs, videos, and podcasts alike. Additionally, I’ve made a handy-dandy infographic with the points outlined in this blog. Check it out and feel free to use it as a guide for your own reviews in the future! Continue reading “How to Create Book Reviews People Want to Read”

Book Recommendation: The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa LahiriMay the record show this episode went live in February! Well, at least for those of us on the West Coast. To celebrate the shortest month of the year, I’ve got a quick book review (recommendation, really) for you. And since this book is actually about the writing life, I’ve combined the show’s normal segments into one. If you haven’ read Jhumpa Lahiri, I highly recommend her two collections of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies and Unaccustomed Earth. Someday, I’d like to review some of her other other works but for now, I hope you all enjoy my discussion of The Clothing of Books.

Books mentioned in this episode:

The Clothing of Books by Jhumpa Lahiri

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Pet Sematary Review & Static vs Dynamic Characters

Pet Sematary Book ReviewToday, I’m making up for lost time with a longer-than-usual book review and writing discussion! First up, I’m talking about Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Most of the time, I read King because I want something that’s just straight-up entertaining. In retrospect, this book actually touched on some more discussion-worthy themes than the other novels I’ve read by him. Specifically, modern traditions surrounding death and how the circumstances surrounding death can make it more – or less – horrifying. But mostly more.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about static and dynamic characters and how you can use them in your writings. It’s an interesting topic because, in my experience, static characters kind of have a reputation for being boring – but they don’t have to be! On the other hand, dynamic characters open a whole world of possibilities for internal conflict in your character. All that to say, when it comes to choosing which character type best fits your story, pick wisely.

If you’ve listened before or if this is your first encounter with Plotboilers, you can always find me on iTunes. And if you like the show, go ahead and leave me a rating and review!

Books mentioned in this Episode:

Pet Sematary by Stephen King

The Stand by Stephen King

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

It by Stephen King

 

January Update!

Ah, January. It felt like such a long month and yet, it wasn’t quite long enough for me to get my second episode published. I know, I know. Here’s my excuse: I was on vacation. Typically, I read a lot when I travel. This time, I expected to spend my Norwegian getaway in a cabin covered with a blanket of snow, sipping coffee and wine, reading the next few books I want to review for you all.

In reality, I did sip wine in a cabin. And the snow was magical. However, I didn’t get around to reading the aforementioned books. Sad face! All that to say, I’m putting off today’s episode until early next month to avoid recording lame content about books I’m not as excited to review while in a jet-lagged stupor. Until then, feel free to check out some of my older episodes and blog posts! You can find them here or on iTunes.

PS – If you recently rated Plotboilers on iTunes or left a review or did both of those things – Thank you a million times over!  

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Book Review and “You’re Not Good Enough” Book Tag!

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) Book CoverToday’s episode features a review of We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor. When I first heard about We Are Legion, I wasn’t convinced that I’d like it – mostly because the main character is a spaceship. (That’s kind of an oversimplification, but you’ll understand why after hearing the review.) This book surprised me because it’s not only super fun but also deals with some pretty interesting questions –  like what it means to be alive and the nature of individuality. If that sounds cool, you’re in luck because it’s actually the first of three books in the Bobiverse trilogy. I definitely plan on reading the next two – and I might review them, too!

In the meantime, I decided to shake things up a bit and participate in the “You’re Not Good Enough” book tag. Again, this is going to take some explaining. Basically, I’m going to talk about some interesting / outlandish / funny scenarios and try to figure out which book characters “win” each scenario. Thanks to The Book Cover Girl for tagging me!

Books in this Episode:

  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor
  • It by Stephen King
  • Retrograde by Peter Cawdron
  • Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  • Their Eyes were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • Pet Semetary by Stephen King
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  • Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

For reference, here are the questions from the book tag on The Book Cover Girl’s blog!

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