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Posts Tagged ‘Heidi Pitlor’

While this article* might be more appropriately titled “What Makes a Bad Short Story,” it’s still an interesting read from Heidi Pitlor, editor of The Best American Short Stories series and someone with an astonishing exposure to the depth and breadth of short stories.

…”Sometimes, story writers seem to forget to write scenes.” This sort of thing is fine if scenelessness is done intentionally. But too often, we as readers enter a story via a small action (a door opening, a phone ringing) and then are held captive while the author utilizes a disproportionate amount of space introducing a character, his marriage, his children, his divorce, his parents and his emotional limitations before we return to the room he just entered or the phone call that just begun. In a 17-page story, each page matters. Each sentence matters. Pacing matters.

This may be more of an issue in literary fiction than genre fiction, but it can happen anywhere. (I’m currently reading a genre novel where life-and-death chase scenes are regularly interrupted by peaceful jaunts down memory lane. Srsly?) If you want me to rush headlong into a story, don’t put up speedbumps. And while we’re at it, don’t take life so seriously:

Here are some things I wish I saw more frequently: humor, genre-bending, humor, risk-taking, a more direct addressing of real world matters, humor.

Having somewhat goofy tendencies myself, I’m pleased to see her emphasis on humor. Because what’s the point if you can’t laugh, am I right?

* Yes, there’s a typo in the article. No, it’s not a big deal, no matter what she does for a living. Would you rather she’d refused to publish the piece in an obsessive attempt to ensure its perfection, before finally giving up and tossing it in the trash? I would not:) Do the best you can, but keep moving ahead.

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