I am currently working on a short story collection for an upcoming book release. I’ve cobbled together some short stories already published on Literary Juice and elsewhere as well as some brand spanking new short stories to send chills up my reader’s spine.
However, one short story has really been tough to write, and I realized the other day once I had a breakthrough with it that the reason I couldn’t get it right was because it bored the life out of me.
It all began when I was 12 years old. I have a vivid memory of visiting a diorama display at a local mall where I saw a fantastic diorama of the inside of an Egyptian tomb. The scene was fascinating because within the tomb I saw a small model of an archaeologist rappelling down the wall from a hole he had knocked through and sitting on the floor of the tomb all covered in rust was a huge and imposing mech from Mechwarrior.
Well, years later I’m trying to write a story about it and I’m failing miserably. At first my main character was an archaeologist, then he was a construction worker, and finally a dishonorably discharged Sea Bee. I think I erased the story five times before I got it right, and now that I discovered what was wrong I can’t wait to get back to working on it.
What was wrong? Well, I was wrong. I was going about it all wrong, for one, but as I usually do, I’ve narrowed the problem down to a list of three things:
- Not enough conflict – As Michael Crighton said, “make sure to have conflict on every page”. With short stories this is required for nearly every paragraph for a good one. I began to fill the story with many of my own personal fears, creating one internal and external conflict with nearly each paragraph. This leads me to number 2 on the list.
- Not personal enough – As I tweeted earlier today: “Writers write from their gut, or they don’t write.” A story has to be personal on some level. Up until the time I had the breakthrough with this short story, the only connection I had with it was the pre-teen memory of the diorama. I had to get in the head and heart of the main character and live there, make his fears my own, make his struggles my own. Then it started to click.
- Not enough external/internal balance – One of the biggest problems with the story was that I was so focused on describing such a strange scene and how the main character arrived there that I didn’t really provide any interior monologue for him. In the story, the main character is alone through most of the story. Only the first few paragraphs actually have interaction with other characters and then he is alone for the rest of the narrative. I had to make readers feel for him in some way and identify with him, and that took my own investment in his personality, his troubles, and ultimately his miserable life.
Ultimately if you are bored with a story you are writing your readers will as well, probably more so because they don’t have the investment that you have made in writing that steaming pile of boredom. Hopefully these tips help a little in getting you out of that writing slump or funk that the boring story has dragged you into.