Monday, June 22, 2009

Can I Have Some Cheese with that Whine?

The collective Evelyn David agreed to write a short story for Tony Burton’s holiday anthology (, A Gift for Murder. All profits benefit Toys for Tots. Doing a mitzvah (good deed) AND seeing another story in print – a win-win for all.

But writing is hard, and writing short stories is even harder (commence high pitch whine).

Tony has set a limit of 4,000 words per story. So far we’ve written 2,000 and barely killed anybody, let alone introduced any suspects. We have no room for herrings, let alone red ones.

Writing short is supposed to teach you discipline. You learn to find the single exact word to describe someone, rather than an orgy of adjectives. You spark the reader’s imagination so she fills in the blanks of the bare bones scenes you are creating.

Do you remember those summer reading lists in high school? Was it just me who immediately glommed on to The Pearl by John Steinbeck? I am embarrassed to report that I have no memory of the story other than it was 96 pages. But I now realize the incredible genius of Steinbeck that he could tell such a poignant story in so few words.

So we will soldier on, determined to build a whodunnit that will confound and delight readers in under 4000 words...and I will probably whine my way through the process. Do you think Steinbeck also was a whiner?

In the meantime, I’m also getting ready for my Southern Tour. Saturday at Deadly Ink in New Jersey; Sunday at Barnes and Noble in Manassas, Virginia; Monday at Middleburg Library, Virginia; Tuesday at Cambridge Library, Maryland; Wednesday at Mystery Loves Company Bookstore in Oxford, Maryland; and Wednesday night at Delmar Library, Delaware. See Evelyn David’s website for details,

Evelyn David

1 comment:

  1. What a great way to give! Good for you guys.

    I also struggle with the short story form, but not as much as I used to. The truth seems to be that writing screenplays really helped my ability to get in and out of the story on the page. Scripts are such a strangely "short hand" format themselves.

    You've probably heard at sometime the same piece of writing advice I've heard again and again: if you want to write, READ. And, I think that is a good piece of advice, but . . . well, I've been a big reader of short stories for all my life and it wasn't until I started reading many(now numbering into the hundreds) of screenplays that I could really model the shorter forms in even a baseline acceptable way. I'm sure I've also read hundreds of short stories, but those didn't seem to teach me the "how" of writing them!

    But, done well, they are little gems of great beauty, aren't they? Maybe that's why reading many short stories couldn't convey how to write a good one: I was just too in love with the reading of them? (And, reading the scripts is a JOB that is seldom a pleasure!)