Friday, July 7, 2017

Guest Post: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Murder by SMFS Member Peter DiChellis

It has been awhile, but SMFS member Peter DiChellis is back today with some thoughts about humor in mysteries…

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Murder
By Peter DiChellis

I enjoy reading and writing mysteries peppered with humor. Counterintuitive as it might seem, fictional tales of appalling crimes and their life-crushing consequences are often enhanced by hoots and yuks from humor. How can that possibly be? For me at least, there are several reasons.
1. Humor provides breathing space, a touch of comic relief from the so-often dismal themes in mystery and crime stories. To paraphrase an old political saw, these stories ain’t beanbag. Humor can deliver a welcome break in the tension.
2. Humorous passages give camouflage for clues. This is your brain on humor: Giddy and giggly and distracted, but not focused on rational analysis. Could you overlook an important clue during a bout of head-shaking, eyeball-rolling chortling? Count on it.
3. Humor is just flat-out entertaining. Among the many splendid reasons to read a good mystery, or any engrossing fiction, is simply to enjoy an entertaining diversion. Humor amps up the entertainment.
4. Humor creates likeability. In real life, we tend to like and appreciate good-humored people who can make us laugh. Why wouldn’t we feel the same about fictional characters and stories?
5. Injections of humor might help a story stand out in a crowded field. By definition mystery and crime stories, like all genre fiction, typically incorporate common elements that readers have come to expect. Humor is one way to add a distinctive element that helps a story stand apart.
6. Humorous incidents can erect unusual and revealing obstacles for characters to overcome. Fictional detectives already endure wily suspects, unreliable witnesses, contaminated evidence, and other impediments to success. Frustrate them with some funny stuff too and see how they handle it.
7. Mysteries provide lots of creative opportunities for humor. The cast of characters, from detectives to sidekicks to suspects to witnesses, is rich with eccentric possibilities. Strange clues and weird circumstances abound. Settings range from seedy barrooms to stately mansions, from trailer parks to office towers.
Finally, I hope those who enjoy humorous mysteries will take a look at the July issue of Mystery Weekly, an extra-large humor edition. The issue includes my story (“Darkness, Darkness”) about a blind man who witnesses a murder and offers detectives a peculiar assortment of puzzling clues.



Peter DiChellis © 2017
 
Peter DiChellis concocts sinister and sometimes comedic tales for anthologies, ezines, and magazines. He is a member of the Short Mystery Fiction Society and an Active (published author) member of the Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. For more, visit his site Murder and Fries at http://murderandfries.wordpress.com/

Saturday, July 1, 2017

SleuthSayers: Mags and Anthos

SleuthSayers: Mags and Anthos: by John M. Floyd The other day R.T. Lawton and I were e-chatting about the new issue of AHMM --this isn't the first time he and I ...

SMFS Members among 2017 Macavity Award Nominees

The Macavity Award is named for the “mystery cat” of T.S. Eliot (Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats). Each year The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted on by members of Mystery Readers International, subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal, and friends and supporters of MRI who all nominate and vote for their favorite mysteries in four categories. The winners will be announced at opening ceremonies at Bouchercon in Toronto, Thursday, October 12.


We have four members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society nominated this year in two categories.


In the category of  Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel:

Edith Maxwell for Delivering The Truth, Midnight Ink.


In the category of Best Short Story:

Craig Faustus Buck for Blank Shot” in Black Coffee, Darkhouse Books.

Paul D. Marks: Ghosts of Bunker Hill” in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Dec. 2016.

Art Taylor forParallel Play” in Chesapeake Crimes: Storm Warning, Wildside Press.


The full list of all the 2017 Macavity Award Nominees can be found on the website. Congrats and good luck to all the nominees and especially to those members of the SMFS!

Friday, June 30, 2017

SMFS Members News— JUNE 2017

The members below reported their publishing successes this month: 

Michael Bracken, “Wedding Day Disaster” in True Story (June 2017) as well as “Baseball Daddy” and “Summer Skeevy” in True Confessions (June 2017).

Diana Deverell, Open the Door: Nora Dockson Legal Thriller #5,  Sorrel Press (June 2017).

Patricia Dusenbury, “Family Man” at Mystery Tribune (June 8, 2017).

Gail Farrelly, “Double Trouble: Mystery Short Story” was published in Kings River Life Magazine (June 17, 2017).

John M Floyd has three stories out this month. “Witness Protection,” in Woman’s World (June 19, 2017) as well as “The Rare Book Case” in Woman’s World (July 3, 2017 issue) on sale now. He also has “Trail’s End,” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017. He also has a piece on short story writing, “Long Story Short” at FundsForWriters (June 16, 2017). 

David H. Hendrickson, Huram's Temple, Pentucket Publishing (June 2017).

Martin Roy Hill, The Butcher's Bill (The Linus Schag, NCIS, Thrillers Book 2),  32-32 North (June 2017).

Steve Liskow, “Look What They've Done to My Song, Mom” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017.


Sandra Murphy, From Hay to Eternity: Ten Devilish Tales of Crime and Deception, Untreed Reads (May 2017).

O’Neil De Noux, “The Magnolia Murders” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, July/August 2017.

Alan Orloff, “Happy Birthday” at Shotgun Honey (June 15, 2017). 

Jude Roy, La Valse du Bayou Serpent (The Bayou Serpent Waltz), Amazon Digital Services (June 2017). 

Jennifer Soosar, Parent Teacher Association, Black Opal Books (June 2017).

When, and only when he makes the call onlist, email news for next month's post to SMFS President Kevin R. Tipple (KEVINRTIPPLE at VERIZON dot NET).

Monday, June 26, 2017

Guest Post: IN THE BEGINNING by Jan Christensen


IN THE BEGINNING


So you want to be a writer. So did I. I've probably written my million words--about eighty short stories and ten full-length novels, and a couple dozen articles, some published, some not.

To be a published author takes perseverance and a tough skin. I seem to have both. But not in the beginning.

It hurts to get that first rejection. It's discouraging to get the first dozen.

Baby steps are needed. A baby learns to walk by practicing every day, and that's what a beginning writer should do. You learn an awful lot by simply doing. But it doesn't hurt to read a book a month about writing, some of the better writing magazines, and now blogs.

Read best-selling authors' autobiographies or self-help books. Stephen King in On Writing said you should read an hour for every hour you write. You can learn a lot by reading the current best sellers and widely in the genre you're particularly interested in.

The ONLY way you'll ever get published is to write. Thinking about it, talking about it won't get you there. You have to go to that quiet spot with your writing tools and just do it.

Good luck!


Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:  www.janchristensen.com

Monday, June 19, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review: Short Story by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta

Little Big Crimes: Short Story, by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta...: "Short Story," by Karin Slaughter and Michael Koryta, in Matchup, edited by Lee Child, Simon and Schuster, 2017. I'm not a...

Guest Post: HOW JOURNALISM GUIDELINES CAN HELP FICTION WRITERS by Jan Christensen

HOW JOURNALISM GUIDELINES CAN HELP FICTION WRITERS


If you ever took a journalism class, you know the basics of writing nonfiction for newspapers and magazines. However, these basic tools can also help you hone your fiction into tight, sharp writing that is both clear and complete. This is, of course, especially important for short story writers.


The basics are: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Every journalism student has to memorize those words. Usually in that order. Sometimes one or more can be left out, but it should be a conscious decision with a good reason. Not long ago, for example, our local newspaper had an article about making the city greener, and explained about an organization giving away free trees in a few days. They did the who—the name of the organization. The what--a giveaway of three trees to anyone who showed up; the when--the date; the why--to make the city green. And the how--go and get the trees. They left out one vital fact, however. The where. No address, no clue about the location of the giveaway. So, both the reporter and the editor missed something really important. Oddly enough, they reported on the event after it was over (I believe this is yearly and they always give away the trees in the same location), told how many trees were given away, and—you guessed it, the location where it all took place. In this case, NOT better late than never.


The reader of fiction almost always needs all these elements, too, for the story to make sense. Leave one vital part out, and you’ve lost her. A good rule of thumb is to be sure you have them all there when you are finished with all your edits. Because you may have put them all in when you wrote the piece (or you may not have), and you may take something out that was really needed, or miss that something was left out in the first place. But if you look one last time for each element, you should be fine.


Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:  www.janchristensen.com

Monday, June 12, 2017

Guest Post: STAGES OF WRITING A SHORT STORY by Jan Christensen


STAGES OF WRITING A SHORT STORY


The steps below help me keep on track when writing a new story. Through trial and error, I've come up with these ideas to stay organized.

1. Get idea.  Get excited about your idea.  Start outlining, mental planning--whatever you do to get going.  I always just dive into the writing.

2. Start writing the story. Open a second document on your computer.  I name mine [NAME OF STORY] notes.DOCX.  Keep it open whenever you're working on this manuscript.  In it note each new character's name and description as you write about him or her, and any descriptions and names of specific places.  If you’re in flow and would rather wait until the end of your writing session to put this info down, that's fine, but it will take you longer to find it again to copy and paste.

After the list of names, do what I call a "post outline."  In a few sentences, write down what happened in each scene.  You will bless yourself later for this when you are revising, writing your query letter, and submitting

In the next section of your notes, copy and paste or type in research you did and other items as they come up. To keep good track of your research and to make it easier to go back to it, include the links to the material if you found it on-line.

3. Revise.

4. Submit. In your notes document, make a table to show where and when you submitted the story and the results of the submission. If you need to write a cover letter, first write it in the notes doc, edit it carefully, then copy and paste it into an email submission or into an on-line form if that’s the way submissions are handled by your target.

5. Instead of waiting to see if it’s accepted, get to work right away on a new story.

Good luck!


Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:  www.janchristensen.com

Monday, June 5, 2017

Guest Post: WHO SAID THAT? by Jan Christensen

It is the first Monday of June and Jan is back today with some simple advice that is often ignored these days….

WHO SAID THAT?


I really want to know. All the time. In real life, and when reading.


Nothing makes me more ticked off with a story than not knowing who’s speaking. And it’s rare anymore for me to read a book where I don’t find places where I have to reread to figure it out.


Please, don’t do this to your readers. I notice it happens most often near the end of a story when things are winding down, answers to questions provided, and lots of characters are talking. Just when you really don’t want to stop to figure out who’s saying what. Did the writer get in a hurry and leave off the attributions? Did the author figure that her characters’ voices were so clear by now the reader would automatically know who was talking? (Doesn’t happen with me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.) Has the writer bought into the idea that writing “he said” or “she said” is breaking a rule?


See, you don’t want me wondering about this when I’m reading your story. You want me to glide through it, to never have to stop to puzzle out something so simple as “who said that?”


I’ve been reading and writing for a long time now. A decade or so ago a very popular author suggested that a simple “he said/she said” was the best way for the reader to know who was talking instead of using modifiers or such attributes as “he hissed,” or “he growled,” or said with an adverb, “she said softly,” or “he grumbled loudly.” This decade, someone else “ruled” that you should not only not use attributes at all, but instead use small actions to show what the character is doing and thinking while speaking. Thus, you may notice a heck of a lot of coffee being drunk now in what you read. Or tea. It’s so easy to use “Jenny took a sip of coffee” that many writers do use it. Over and over again. After Jenny takes a sip of hers, John answers and adds cream to his. How does this add one bit of information or interest to the story? It doesn’t. Instead, it’s often distracting. Very distracting if the author only uses this device.


What to do? Mix it up, of course.


1.      Have some characters use certain tics to show they’re upset (fingering a necklace, tapping a pen, etc.)
2.      Have the occasional character hiss (be sure there’s some “s” sounds in the words he utters, however) or roar or whisper.
3.      Use “he said” or “she said” when you want fast action along with the dialogue. Any reader older than ten is used this and won’t even notice. But they will miss it if they cannot figure out who is speaking.


And they will be ticked. Trust me on this.


One more bit of info about this. With e-readers, things can get even worse when the attributions are left out because of wonky formatting. Which is exactly what happened to me just before I wrote this rant--I mean-- advice. Near the end of a novel by an extremely famous and popular writer, she left out a “he said” where the formatting got messed up (big NY publisher, too) and two paragraphs ran together. Or I think they did. I had to go back to re-read it because at first I thought one person was speaking, but when I got about four or five paragraphs farther, I thought it might have been the other character. I’m still not sure I ever got it right because it went on for eight paragraphs without telling who was talking. There was a small action in there, but it didn’t help identify the character speaking. In fact, it made it harder to figure out. What do you suppose I’m going to remember the most about this novel?


Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives and writes in Corpus Christi, Texas now, after living on the road in an RV and writing wherever she happened to land. She concentrates on mysteries, both short and long. More about her here:  www.janchristensen.com

Saturday, June 3, 2017

2017 Shamus Award SMFS Member Nominees

Earlier this week the Private Eye Writers of America announced their Shamus Award nominees for the 2017 Shamus Awards. There are five categories for awards given in regards to private eye novels and short stories first published in the United States in 2016. Three members of the Short Mystery Fiction Society are nominated in three of the five categories. 

In the category of  “Best Private Eye Novel" the SMFS member nominee is Robert S. Levinson  for The Stardom Affair.

In the category of  “Best Original Private Eye Paperback” the SMFS member nominee is O'Neil De Noux for  Hold Me, Babe

In the category of  Best Private Eye Short Story”  the SMFS member nominee is Dave Zeltserman for "Archie On Loan" in the Sept/Oct 2016 issue of  Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine..

The SMFS congratulates our member nominees as well as all the nominees. The full list of the 2017 Shamus award nominees can be found on the Private Eye Writers of America website.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

SMFS 2018 Derringer Coordinator is Jay Hartman

The membership of the SMFS is pleased to announce that, by acclimation, Jay Hartman has been elected the 2018 Derringer Coordinator. Jay’s term of office begins on July 1, 2017.

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Society Members' News: May 2017

The members below reported their publishing successes this month:


Michael Bracken, “Sibling Rivalry” in True Story (May 2017) as well as “My Second Mother” and “Fashion Disaster” in True Confessions (May 2017).

John Floyd, “Vanity Case” in Mysterical-E: Spring 2017  and “A Thousand Words: A Mystery Short Story” at Kings River Life Magazine (May 27, 2017). John is also once again in Woman’s World in the May 29th issue with his tale “Special Delivery.”

Gail Farrelly, “Don’t Forget To Take Your Vitamins” in two parts at the Yonker’s Tribune. Part One appeared on May 23rd with Part Two appearing on May 25th.

Joan Leotta’s poem, “Boats on Blue,” originally published the Dove Tales anthology, won first place in Wilda Morris' Poetry Challenge for May 2017.

J. R. Lindermuth, “A Bad Draw of the Cards” at Rope and Wire (May 2017).

Edith Maxwell, Mulch Ado About Murder, Kensington Books (May 2017).

Jude Roy, “The Tattooed Corpse” in Mystery Weekly Magazine (May 2017) and "Mrs. Thibodeaux" in Gravel Magazine: Summer 2017.


When, and only when he makes the call onlist, email news for next month's post to SMFS President Kevin R. Tipple (KEVINRTIPPLE at VERIZON dot NET).

Short Story Month: Jake Devlin

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, Jake Devlin shares “The Cupcake Caper: Mystery Short Story” archived at Kings River Life Magazine.

If you would like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Short Story Month: Peter DiChellis (Take 2)

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Earlier this month on the 16th, Peter DiChellis  shared a story. He is back today with another as he shares “Murderous Lies” archived at Plan B Magazine.

If you would like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Short Story Month: John M. Floyd (Take 2)

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Earlier this month on the 19th,  John M. Floyd shared two stories. Today, he is back with two more as he shares “Vanity Case” archived at Mysterical-E  and the just published  A Thousand Words: A Mystery Short Story” at Kings River Life Magazine.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Guest Post: FIRST LINE; FIRST PARAGRAPH by Jan Christensen

It is Monday and that means Jan Christensen is back today sharing wisdom…..


FIRST LINE; FIRST PARAGRAPH


I have used the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon more and more when making a decision to buy a book or short story, especially if the author is new to me. And I’ve been rejecting several lately because they have what I consider a fatal flaw. They begin with a character alone and musing. I admit that some readers don’t mind this at all. But some will become quickly bored if the musing goes on too long, which it usually does. Musing, by definition, takes some time. In my opinion, it’s better to get right into the story and fill in the backstory when needed. Using the character is thinking about the past, after all.

What should the first line of your story do? Grab the reader, of course. How do you do that? For modern writers, usually having something exciting happen works well. Involve at least one sense, and you’ll do even better. The main character hears a scream, smells smoke, sees an airplane nosediving from the sky, touches something icky, tastes something odd.

To complete the first paragraph or sentences, be sure to plant the reader someplace specific. The character is most likely not floating out in space. Having her on the move is a good move. Some bit of action that nails the setting helps. Preferably physical action on her part, not in a car. A train might be okay. An airplane will work if she hears a scream or smells smoke or feels the plane taking a nosedive.

Whatever you do, don’t have the character waking up or just sitting around someplace thinking.
    
To recap, have your character’s senses on alert. Set your character in a specific place, and use a small bit of description to plant the reader. And finally, show the reader how your character is reacting emotionally to what’s going on around her.

A good exercise is to write down in your reader’s notebook every first line and paragraph you read that pulls you into the story. This includes first lines of scenes, not just the first line of a short story or novel. And perhaps also write down those that you feel are not very good.


Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, and has had nine novels and over seventy short stories published. www.janchristensen.com  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review: Tattersby and the Silence of the Lumbs by Neil Schofield

Little Big Crimes: Tattersby and the Silence of the Lumbs, by Neil Sc...: "Tattersby and the Silence of the Lumbs," by Neil Schofield, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May/June, 2017. Yes, ...

Short Story Month: Kevin R. Tipple

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, Kevin R. Tipple shares “The Tell: Mystery Flash Fiction” archived at Kings River Life Magazine.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Short Story Month: Martin Roy Hill

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, Martin Roy Hill shares “The Touch of Time” archived at Crimson Streets.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Catherine Dilts Reviews: The Tattooed Corpse by Jude Roy

Catherine Dilts Reviews: The Tattooed Corpse by Jude Roy



Short Story Month: Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, co-authors Mary Reed and Eric Mayer share “Waiting: A Halloween Short Story” archived at Kings River Life Magazine.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Short Story Month: Karen Pullen

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, Karen Pullen shares “Lady Tremaine’s Rebuttal” as well as “Brown Jersey Cow” and “Snow Day” all archived at Every Day Fiction.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Short Story Month: Jacqueline Seewald

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day. 


Today, Jacqueline Seewald shares “Genesis” archived at Over My Dead Body! 

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Short Story Month: B. K. Stevens

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, B.K. Stevens shares “A Joy Forever” archived at her site.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Short Story Month: Martha Reed

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, Martha Reed shares “The Haunting Of Dalton Primble” archived at Spinetingler Magazine

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Short Story Month: KM Rockwood

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.


Today, KM Rockwood shares “Liquor Store Holdup” archived on at KMRockwood.Com after appearing in Jack Hardway's Crime Magazine - Vol. 2, No. 2, March-April 2015

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.

Guest Post: DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A SHORT STORY AND A NOVEL by Jan Christensen

Monday means Jan Christensen is back today with another informative post. Apparently, the difference is more complicated than novels have a lot more words.


DIFFERENCES BETWEEN A SHORT STORY AND A NOVEL


An easy way to visualize the difference between writing short or long is to think of pencil sketches for the short story scene--everything is there, but the details are scanty.  Each scene is fully developed, with dialog, a bit of description/setting, and what the characters are feeling and how they're acting.  Usually the time frame is short and the viewpoint is all one character's.

For example, a sketch of a kitchen with the sun shinning in the window (time of day, maybe season), one person facing the viewer (VP character), the background sketchy (pun intended), people black and white, but dressed (or maybe not, if it's that kind of story), but the clothes are probably not that important.  If they are, there's more detail--more lines drawn to indicate type of clothing.  Each character wears a certain expression--the viewer can pretty much tell what each one is thinking. 

A novel is more of a series of oil paintings.  Each one has a colorful background (description/setting), the characters are vivid, and each succeeding painting can be shown with different viewpoint characters and over a longer span of time.  The sun is shining in the first picture, but the moon is hanging high in the sky later on.  The tree outside can have leaves one time, and none later on.  Different characters are the focus of each painting, indicating a change of VP.  Clothing is interesting, and sometimes important to the story.

Each kind of story, whether short or long, has its own special pull.  The quick sketches of a short story where the reader gets to add her own details to fill out the story, but where the story is over quickly.  The oil paintings of the novel where the artist puts in everything for the reader, so the reader can go along with the writer more, and where the story is much longer with more characters, more settings/descriptions, more dialog, even subplots. 

If you are a visual person when writing and reading, as I am, this metaphor for the differences between writing long and short can help you, I believe, with each scene.  While writing a short story, see the scenes as pencil sketches and "report" what you see.  While writing a novel, see each scene as an oil painting with all its rich detail, and get it all down. 

I was writing a short story a while ago, and about halfway through realized I'd put in nothing about setting or the weather.  It came to me then that a short story is more like a pencil sketch than a novel, and so I stopped what I was doing to write this essay.  After I finished the essay, I fleshed out the setting and weather details in the story with only a few sentences.

Then, when I wrote “the end” to the story, I felt as if I did a complete job of it. Anyone else tend to forget mentioning settings enough, and the weather? Sometimes they really don’t matter that much, in my opinion. But I bet some readers disagree with that.


Jan Christensen ©2017

Jan Christensen lives in Corpus Christi, Texas, and has had nine novels and over seventy short stories published. www.janchristensen.com

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Little Big Crimes Review: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Girl! by Jeff Cohen

Little Big Crimes: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Girl! by Jeff Cohen: "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Girl!" by Jeff Cohen, in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, May/June 2017. Years ago Akas...

In Reference To Murder Blog: The 'Zine Scene

A roundup of short mystery fiction currently available to read both in print and online. Includes mention of several SMFS members.

In Reference To Murder Blog: The 'Zine Scene

Short Story Month: Craig Faustus Buck

StoryADay.org proclaimed May International Short Story Month back in 2013. As the short story, in the mystery genre is the reason why the Short Mystery Fiction Society exists, we join in the celebration each year. The SMFS spin on festivities is to highlight one or more members’ online stories per day.

Today, Craig Faustus Buck shares via PDF link the short story “Blank Shot” published in the Black Coffee anthology (2016) edited by Andrew Macrae.

If you’d like to be included, email the link to your story to KevinRTipple  at Verizon dot net.