- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Pearson; 1 edition (2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0205337198
- ISBN-13: 978-0205337194
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Shaping the Story: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Short Fiction 1st Edition
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From the Back Cover
"Shaping the Story" teaches beginning fiction writers to hone their craft with a unique step-by-step approach to writing a short story.
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"What This Book Is ... and What It's Not: Memorable short stories aren't written by the numbers. That might seem a strange thing to say in the introduction to a book that lays out a step-by-stop plan for the writing of a short story. But it's important to say at the outset that the interlocking series of exercises Shaping the Story contains isn't meant to provide a guaranteed formula for use in writing fiction. That would be a foolish, as well as an impossible thing to try: stories are endlessly various in the ways they emerge, develop structurally and find their way to an ending. That's part of the joy of writing them, and of reading them."
Why interlinking exercises? The author notes the limitation of exercise-based books and classes: they lead to "disarticulated stack of sketches and little notion of how to employ newfound skills in writing a complete story." The limitation of workshop-based classes: they "too often seem to teach story writing in much the same way an autopsy teaches the investigator the cause of death--the procedure may be instructive, but the subject lies dismembered on the table, never to be resurrected."
SHAPING THE STORY overcomes these limitations with his innovative approach of "linked, progressive exercises that help students to conceive, develop, and revise a complete short story."
Moreover, in each chapter, the author shows the reader his comments on two students' responses to the progressive, interlinked exercises. In the final chapter, on revision, he comments on the revised draft of the two completed stories. Highly instructive comments.
The book includes a brief anthology of 13 short stories from writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Wallace Stegner, Flannery O' Connor, Tobias Wolff, Louise Erdrich, and Sandra Cisneros. Each story is followed by six questions that focus on the techniques deployed by the writer.
It's an excellent book for beginning fiction writers. Minor suggestion: A more accurate subtitle would be: An Integrated Guide to Creating Short Stories.
-- C.J. Singh
Its method is good, and scene by scene. For the beginner who, like me had read tons of theory but needed to get that story out it has helped.
The only problem with the method is that it seems to advise polishing your scenes rather than using them to explore your story. Especially when your unsure of the story it makes more scene to scratch up throw away scenes and use them to think and feel your way through the story. The same with the story cloud device, it was ok to imagine but it does tend to trap the imagination too early.
On the whole though I linked the linked concept very much. To really earn 5 stairs the revision chapter should be stronger and placed near the beginning. Writing is revision. Revisioning. And some more stuff on process added: as Burroway does in the first chapter.
Too many books on writing shove revision on the end. Whereas a book like Kaplans Revision make the point that writing starts with revision. The process of seeing and sketching before the first draft is even attempted.
Combine Burroways chapter on process and Kaplans first chapter on revision
and stick it on the first chapter, would make this book exceptional. And it should emphasis the use of throaway scenes in finding the story then you'd have a perfect text book.
An interesting technique Ive seen is Olen Butlers Dream Space. Though I've seen he has a sight its only vaguely described in his book. This would be a nice addition to the story cloud used here.
Having said that all, this helped me get a story out and I use a modified version of it to actually write stories.
I'd like to see two other things:
1) A cheat sheet one pager at the back, like the Gotham workshop book so I can refer to it quickly.
2) Get rid of the stories. How to's should reference a story or anthology. It just takes up space. I like a thin book I can use and hate having to borrow through stories to get what I want. Even with a table of contents. Thats a problem for example with Burroways fine book "writing fiction" has 30 stories you can get from an anthology. Just dead space. The gotham writers writers workshop book takes the right approach- it has a seperate fiction gallery for those who want to buy it. Though its disadvantage is that it has too many authors.
Then it would be really perfect. But I suppose were still waiting for a perfect fiction book.
Anyway, a thoroughly good book. Worth buying.