Monday, November 26, 2012

on writing - advice on short stories of all genres

Skill alone cannot teach or produce a great short story, which
condenses the obsession of the creature; it is a hallucinatory presence
manifest from the first sentence to fascinate the reader, to make him
lose contact with the dull reality that surrounds him, submerging him
in another that is more intense and compelling.

I think it is vanity to want to put into a story anything but the story

For me the thing that signals a great story is what we might call its
autonomy, the fact that it detaches itself from its author like a soap
bubble blown from a clay pipe.
- Julio Cortázar, Around the Day in Eighty Worlds

The one test of the really weird (story) is simply this--whether or
not there be excited in the reader a profound sense of dread, and of
contact with unknown spheres and powers; a subtle attitude of awed
listening, as if for the beating of black wings or the scratching of
outside shapes and entities on the known universe's utmost rim.
- H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature

By Hengki Koentjoro

If you focus on the humanity of your stories, your characters, then
the horror will be stronger, scarier. Without the humanity, the horror
becomes nothing more than a tawdry parlor trick. All flash and no
magic, and worst of all, no heart.
- Don Roff

The only thing worth writing about is people. People. Human beings.
Men and women whose individuality must be created, line by line,
insight by insight. If you do not do it, the story is a failure. [...] There
is no nobler chore in the universe than holding up the mirror of reality
and turning it slightly, so we have a new and different perception of
the commonplace, the everyday, the 'normal', the obvious. People are
reflected in the glass. The fantasy situation into which you thrust them
is the mirror itself. And what we are shown should illuminate and
alter our perception of the world around us. Failing that, you have
failed totally.
- Harlan Ellison

Unicorns, dragons, witches may be creatures conjured up in dreams,
but on the page their needs, joys, anguishes, and redemptions should be
just as true as those of Madame Bovary or Martin Chuzzlewit.
- Alberto Manguel, Dark Arrows: Great Stories of Revenge

A short story must have a single mood and every sentence must build
towards it.
- Edgar Allan Poe

It's possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace
things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to
endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a
woman's earring—with immense, even startling power.

It's possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace
things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to
endow those things-- a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a 
woman's earring-- with immense, even startling power. It is possible to
write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill
along the reader's spine-- the source of artistic delight, as Nabokov
would have it. That's the kind of writing that most interests me.
- Raymond Carver

For me, the short story is not a character sketch, a mouse trap, an
epiphany, a slice of suburban life. It is the flowering of a symbol center.
It is a poem grafted onto sturdier stock.
- William H. Gass

A novel is achieved with hard work, the short story with inspiration.
- Isabel Allende, Paula

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