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ForgottenSpirit
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« on: May 10, 2006, 04:57:39 PM »

I've read that short story up to 3 Word pages should have none or one character. Not more. Three to five pages – 2 to 4 characters, and so on. Novell, of course, as much as it wants. I partially agree with this. Characterisation is crucial in short stories and the less pages it has it's harder for writing. Especially because you can't do a good character development of several characters in just 2 pages. There're cases which show different, but they are rare and reserved only for extremely talented writers who can deal with so many character in such a small space.

Someone sad that it's much easier to write short story than novell. I disagree. In shorter work of fiction, every little part is important and every word must be in a right place. 
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2006, 05:43:42 PM »

I think it depends on how you define your characters.  Strictly speaking, if you mention a name, you've introduced a character to the text.  Until you develop some aspect of that character it'll only be a name.  Even if you add a physical description, the character is unremarkable and probably still very 2 dimensional. 

Characters are best developed through their actions and their dialogue, I think, so it stands to reason there won't be enough room to add very many to a page-long story.  One or two should be doable, I would have thought - I've seen quite a few flashes where two distinct characters come out of a few hundred words.

As with everything writing related, I don't think there are any hard and fast rules that you must follow - just good guidelines afro
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« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2006, 02:36:38 PM »

Strictly speaking, if you mention a name, you've introduced a character to the text.

Now, that's a tricky one. Not always. Then I might ask: what exactly IS character? Is the character someone who only has an active role in the story? Or everyone with a psychologycal/physical description? I mean, I can causally say in a story - ''That's a gun my uncle Joe Sixpack gave me for birthday'' - and shoot someone with it, but never mention uncle Joe ever again. He's definitively NOT a character. On the other hand, there's an example of one-character story - there's a guy who reminiscences about past event. Is he a character, those people in his memory, all of the or WTF? I've talked to a lot of people on that matter and everyone's oppinion differs. I'd like to hear what you think.

Oh, and one more important thing. If you decide to name a character, please do it somewhere in the beginning of the story. I hate when I find out about characters name on the last page.

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Characters are best developed through their actions and their dialogue, I think

True. Some call it SHOW, DON'T TELL and it's a kick ass advice for every beginning writer. Never say that your character is sad, show it with his actions (crying, shaking, suicide et cetera).

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As with everything writing related, I don't think there are any hard and fast rules that you must follow - just good guidelines afro

Also true. Literature wouldn't develop if there were rules. But, there will always be a technical side which must be obeyed. Like Grammar and Spelling. And you can't write utter shit on two pages which has no meaning to a plot in a three-page story.

Hope it isn't hard for you to follow my Tarzan-Serbian English.
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« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2006, 03:51:02 PM »

Your English is fine. No problems at all understanding your very well made points.

I love minimalism in stories, especially short stories. I hate to read stories where you're presented with a flurry of characters at the start, all introduced with names and relationships. I find myself re-reading sections, thinking "who the hell is THAT?" I've always thought the fewer characters to tell the story, the better. Each one has to be distinct, and have character differentiation. The reader should be able to 'see' the characters, and imagine them speaking the dialogue, and following the actions.

That's what I think, anyway!  yes
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« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2006, 04:42:54 PM »

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True. Some call it SHOW, DON'T TELL and it's a kick ass advice for every beginning writer. Never say that your character is sad, show it with his actions (crying, shaking, suicide et cetera).

I don't think that's always right either.  There comes a point where the avoidance of 'tell' is conspicuous and clumsy (wish I had an example to hand), and you're much better off just stating the facts - especially at the beginning of a story, when trying to set the scene and get the story rolling. 

Say you have a complex character who's feeling happy at a turn of events, but cannot show his happiness, because it would be inappropriate to do so - surely in that situation you 'tell', otherwise life will get complicated and probably quite dull, too.

Thoughts?
« Last Edit: May 11, 2006, 05:01:32 PM by blunt » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2006, 05:13:25 PM »

Strictly speaking, if you mention a name, you've introduced a character to the text.

Now, that's a tricky one. Not always. Then I might ask: what exactly IS character? Is the character someone who only has an active role in the story? Or everyone with a psychologycal/physical description? I mean, I can causally say in a story - ''That's a gun my uncle Joe Sixpack gave me for birthday'' - and shoot someone with it, but never mention uncle Joe ever again. He's definitively NOT a character. On the other hand, there's an example of one-character story - there's a guy who reminiscences about past event. Is he a character, those people in his memory, all of the or WTF? I've talked to a lot of people on that matter and everyone's oppinion differs. I'd like to hear what you think.


I think your reader will treat every name you mention as being a potential character.  I think by assigning a name, rather than a role or rank, you intimate that the person is likely to be important to the story.  One of the stories in the current critique session listed about ten names, assigning both a name and a role (sister, mother, father, son, etc.).  I suggested that the reader begins to panic at this many names in one paragraph, because they assume they'll have to remember who all these people are, as they are likely to play a further role in the story.  My suggestion was to do away with the names and just say father, mother, etc., unless they were to play a part in the rest of the story.  It might have been bad advice, but I don't think so smiley
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2006, 05:20:43 PM »

Say you have a complex character who's feeling happy at a turn of events, but cannot show his happiness, because it would be inappropriate to do so - surely in that situation you 'tell', otherwise life will get complicated and probably quite dull, too.
Such as a murderer at the funeral of his victim?
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2006, 06:17:36 PM »

Yep - a good example afro  Or the opposite - somebody putting on a brave face.

This is a passage from a story in BASS 2005, so it's a quality literary story:

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So many things had happened since then. I was still living in the same house, but Jeanie and the kids were gone. And I had come to despise Carl, even though he’d done nothing to deserve it except live his own happy life right next to my sad one, where I had no choice but to witness it all the time and pretend not to mind.

Think how else you could say the same thing without using the words 'happy' and 'sad'.  How many more words would it take?  Would the end result be better or worse?  The author has explained a complex set of circumstances in a few words, there's no mistaking what he says, and he's now free to carry on telling the story.  Sometimes a little bit of 'tell' saves half a page of pointless waffle yes
« Last Edit: May 11, 2006, 06:19:00 PM by blunt » Logged

Planning is an unnatural process - it is much more fun to do something.  The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression. [Sir John Harvey-Jones]
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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2006, 02:37:01 AM »

no rule should be taken absolutely (like everything in life, for that matter  smiley).

it's quite ok to use TELL technique when narrator from the first POV talks about past. it'd be a laugh riot if instead of words 'sad' and 'happy' you use face grimaces and other body language. but, when you have an ongoing narrative line (is this how you say it?), whether it is told in past or present tense, you should use SHOW - then again, not always. try to use it only on important aspects of the story.
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