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  1. #1
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    Short Stories vs Interludes

    Hey all! I'm new to the forums but I'm in rather desperate need of some assistance for my works so I thought I'd holler at you and get your advice.

    I am currently working on editing last year's (2010's) NaNoWriMo project I did so I can make use of the Create Space code I got for 'winning'. The work is a compilation of short stories set in my fantasy world. Herein lies my problem - I've used this world for most everything I write and have created a Dungeons and Dragons campaign set in that world. As a way to tantalize my players for what's to come, I've gotten in the habit of writing interludes for them - little short snipets and views of what is happening elsewhere in the campaign. They have no definite beginning or ending - more like a written movie preview.

    This has now impacted how I write short stories and I'm finding at least half of the ones I've written for the NaNo work are written in Interlude style with no real conflict or even conclusion - just anecdotal tellings of a particular point in the timeline. This isn't necessarily what I'm after either - I want my stories to have a clear beginning/middle/end with a nice little conflict that gets resolved but I can't get my brain to agree with that sentiment in the least.

    What are your thoughts? Any suggestions for how to fix them or even if I should fix them?

    Thanks!



  2. #2
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    It might help if you posted one, so we have an idea what you're talking about. Readers aren't players, so it's probably not a good idea to use the same concept. I also suppose it depends on your writing ability.

  3. #3
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    Michelle,

    It's hard to give any help without reading a couple of them. Certainly many modern ss do feel less complete, less conventionally structured. Guess it all depends on the how you do it rather than the what. You know? You can break rules if you're really good. If not, well...you get it.

    Funny, but I've been writing little short bits around the characters in a game my son and his friend made up and play. It's a terribly complex game that never ends and is about building tribes, war, hunting, survival. I can't bear to play it with them. Just Friday, my son came home from school all excited because he'd come up with a way I could participate that wouldn't drive me crazy. He asked me to write profiles of each of the main characters. I actually got into it. When I read the first one about Blue Star to my son and his friend, they got all excited. My son said, "Wow, I didn't know all those things about Blue Star." This probably isn't what you're talking about, but I'll be sure not to do more than one of these in a day so that it doesn't make me forget how to write something with a plot. Thanks for the warning.

  4. #4
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    Thank you so far for the input. I'm pasting one of them below and profusely apologize for the length of it on a post. I'm not going to change any of its format or anything so I will also apologize if it all looks scrunched:


    The purpose of a puppet, generally, is to entertain, yet for the puppet it is just a form of control. It is tugged on taught strings that control its movements and mannerisms – it’s very existence. There was a time when strength ruled the Phoenix Empire and her people flourished despite differences with her more savage kin. But that time slowly faded away into the memories of the wise and the pages of the history books leaving only a withered shell of what once was to be tugged on the strings of prejudice, greed and blind pride.
    No longer was the purpose of the puppet to rule, but rather, to act as a front for more subtle manipulations that slowly began to rip the mighty empire apart. Decisions were made that were in the best interest of the Council rather than the people while still maintaining the appearance of being ‘for the good of all’. It was a vicious cycle that was as exhausting as fighting a battle against an endless army if not worse and a cycle that was gradually wearing everyone down regardless of their place, station or title.
    Morning in Joricho dawned with the scent of rain heavy on the air that seemed to keep the exhaustion on the people that slowly rose to start the day. It was a scent that drifted in through the open window to the elven prince’s nose, gently rousing him from a rare night of peaceful sleep – nights he only achieved when in Joricho. He rolled onto his back, letting the fresh air fill his lungs only to have it squashed by a feathered pillow in his face.
    “Get up lazy,” Noelani said as the avian amatessa climbed up onto the bed so that the Phoenix prince’s peace was disturbed. “We’ve got a lot to do today.”
    “We do?” Gannon groaned, shoving the over-stuffed pillow off his face. His vision was instantly filled with the visage of his lady in all her annoying splendor. Silvered feathers fell to the silken sheets from her wings as she stepped lightly on the exquisitely soft mattress. Her long, curled tresses hung loosely about her shoulders, her sheer gown more of an enticement to him than an annoyance.
    “We do and mother is up early this morning so you need to get out,” she said, lightly toeing him in his side so he had no choice but to roll away from her until tumbling off her bed. He landed on the fur-lined floor in a heap, grunting as the last semblances of peace and sleep were robbed from his weary mind.
    Their relationship remained private from the prying eyes of the Council and nobility. To the public, they remained as they always had – tense acquaintances that annoyed each other as siblings rather than close friends – or something more. Their eventual marriage had been a topic of conversation on everyone’s lips since they were children. In truth, it was a logical arrangement for the two nations were natural allies and their union would only strengthen that tie. But, for the two heirs, it was more fun to let everyone continue their belief that they hated each other – the only thing they were still able to control beneath the weight of the Council’s heavy scrutiny.
    “Did you have to kick me off the bed?” Gannon whined as he sat up, looking at Noelani with one single hazel eye in a half-hearted glare.
    “Yes,” she teased, dropping to all fours on her mattress so that her beautiful almond eyes met his with sparkles and charm that he found difficult to hate. “Now go away before mother catches you. I’ll see you in an hour or so.”
    “I’m going…” he groaned, standing to his full height as he stretched. He stooped to collect his discarded clothes, uncaring that he stood in his glorified nudity before her. Their nights together were not spent clothed anyway. It was their secret rendezvous that schooled him in the art of silence and expediency. Even as he crawled out of her window, he pulled his trousers over his bare legs; his tunic-styled shirt was thrown on as he waved goodbye and before anyone was the wiser, his feet and Talents had carried him back to the sanctity of his own home.
    Here, there was no lingering scent of rain or gentle breeze; here the cold snap of Winter crept through the marble walls as it chased Fall away with icy fingers. The hearth in his room remained dark and cold, robbing the room – and his spirits – of warmth.
    “Home again, home again…” he muttered to himself. He tossed his belongings onto the empty bed and stared at it with a heavy sigh. “I hate winter.”
    The rest of his morning seemed to move at a slow crawl as if the ice that lingered in the air tried to lock everything into a frozen image of the splendor it had been in the warmer months. It was the atmosphere, more than anything else, that robbed Gannon of any motivation or will to do much else but sit in his room and read. It was a past time that, at one point, brought him great joy and now one that served more as an imprisonment than an escape. It was a blessed relief when the knock on his door finally came.
    “Going t’grow mushrooms under your arms?” Taelon said as he poked his head into the prince’s room. Gannon could not help but smile at his adopted brother. The fey-blooded gayle always had a positive outlook no matter the situation; it was an infectious trait that drew the two young men closer together.
    “Thought I might give it a try – might start a new fashion statement that way,” Gannon replied, happily tossing the book aside to go join his brother.
    Their day had actually been planned for several months for the Festival of the Moon was drawing near. It was a time of year that was celebrated worldwide as the seasons changed and called for cold in the north and heat in the south. The Phoenix Empire was so vast that they got to celebrate both seasons and did so in the city of Joricho with a masquerade ball that was rivaled by no other nation in the world. The next two weeks would be spent in the penthouse of the grandest inn in all the land with nights of shopping and festivities, eating and dancing, drinking and general joy-making that put a smile on everyone’s faces if only for a few fleeting days,
    “Enjoy your evening?” the leather-winged general asked as he led the way down to the stables.
    “Spying on me again, General?” Gannon teased knowing full well that his brother was the only other living soul aware of his relationship with Noelani. There was precious little that could be kept from the High Lord General of the Armies for it was information bartering that the raven-haired gayle excelled at.
    “You missed the fights last night,” Taelon responded. “There’s only one reason you miss the fights and she’s about yay tall, has silver wings…”
    “Shut up,” Gannon grumbled with a playful shove at the taller gayle. It served little purpose but to earn a shove back that nearly slammed the elven prince into the marble wall as they finished their trek to the stables at a shoving run like children might.
    “And how old are we today, gentlemen?” the Emperor asked, patiently waiting in a gilded carriage that had been used by the Imperial Family for cycles. Matthias was a man of regality regardless of his state of health – or lack thereof. It was starting to become more and more obvious that the Emperor suffered from the same disease that had taken his wife; the same disease that claimed the lives of so many of the Asphondeli elves. Still, he sat proud in his furs and comforts that kept the cold at bay even if he seemed smaller to Gannon’s eyes than he had the previous year.
    “Twelve,” the prince answered through a smirk, elbowing Taelon in the arm again as they stood before their father. “I think twelve is a good age for today.”
    “I like that number,” Taelon agreed, giving Gannon on last shove that rocked the prince onto his rear, giving the gayle leave to climb up into the carriage first. “Morning, zio.”
    “Good morning, infant one,” Matthias replied as he watched his son clamor up behind Taelon. “Infant two.”
    “Morning, papa,” Gannon replied, leaning forward to kiss his father’s cheek lightly before tossing himself back into the heavily padded seat across from the Emperor.
    The chuckle that escaped the Emperor’s lips was one of the few that Gannon cherished. His father rarely smiled anymore. Part of it was the pain brought on by the disease that was slowly robbing him of life and vibrance and part of it was simple weariness. Despite the celebratory times they were entering, the Phoenix Empire was falling into chaos and shambles. The people were discontent and the Council unwilling to change their antiquated ways to mend what had long since broken. It was all becoming too much for the ailing Emperor to bear alone.
    There had been a time when not even the Emperor would have considered allowing Gannon to take his place as ruler of their nation because of prejudices and misbeliefs in a Talent that the young prince had no choice in. He had been born as a Psion – a particularly strong one at that – which had almost instantly branded him as an outcast; a problem that was little better than mold on a pristine piece of fruit. But despite obstacles and wretched opinions, he had worked hard to prove to his father, at least, that those ancient beliefs and prejudices were unfounded. But his efforts had taken too long and it was now too much for the Emperor to fight for his son so very little was done to dissuade the Council of their hatred and so the burdens of their people and nation were left to Matthias and Matthias alone.
    But, the troubles of his people were set aside for the time being. Even if it was fleeting, for a few scant weeks they could pretend that all was well; they could pretend that there was not an end in sight and celebrate the changing of the seasons in grace and high fashion as was their right and station to do so.
    ***
    The city of Joricho rivaled the capital in size and splendor. Its marble edifices and paved streets had stood since before there was an Empire and remained one of the principle cities of the nation. Its gates now stood decorated with banners and flags that called to the Powers for the changing of the seasons. Ribbons of every color were draped from doorways and windows and strands of colored lights stretched the lengths of the streets and beyond.
    People waved as they rolled through the main gates while others added more to the décor that had transformed the city into a wonderland of life and vitality. The center square had been cleared and converted to a stage so grand it was breathtaking; the stores and shops all stood with doors and windows wide open and the air was filled with the scents of food and breads that were only made for Festival.
    It was a pleasing sight for Gannon to see – one he wished he saw more often in his people – as they pulled up to the Dancing Crow, Joricho’s finest inn.
    “Gannon,” Matthias began as they disembarked from the carriage. “There’s something I need to speak with you about-”
    “You’re late!” Noelani scolded almost fiercely as she walked up behind the elven prince and thwacked him on the back of his head.
    “Ow!” he whined, putting on a good show for those watching. “Damn you that hurt! Blame the driver not me!”
    “Rulers don’t throw blame onto others – let’s go!” she persisted, leaving the Emperor gaping as he tried to put in a word edgewise and failed.
    “We’ll talk later?” Gannon called back as Noelani all but dragged him away by his ash-blonde hair. Whatever it was his father had wanted to tell him would have to wait, for even in jest and show, Noelani never relented when she set herself to a task as she had now.
    “Ok, ok… stop dragging me around no one’s watching,” Gannon said once they’d traveled far enough from the inn and other prying eyes to end the charade. He had always given off the appearance of being frail and a poor fighter for he truly had been in his youth. But time and training had changed that even if he liked to pretend that it hadn’t; the guise worked to his advantage when it was necessary but now it was just comedic gesture that he threw aside as he slid his wrist out of Noelani’s hand and dragged her to him instead, kissing her soundly.
    She melted in his arms almost to the point that he had to hold her up, smiling up at him with dreamy eyes when he finally let her go.
    “You’re terrible,” she said. “But you are late and we have a lot to do.”
    “You’ve said that twice now and have yet to tell me what it is exactly that’s so important that it’s time consuming enough to put on a schedule,” he replied, letting her take the lead once more. He followed behind her, letting her tug him gently this time as she headed for the shops that she so loved.
    “Costumes, silly, we need to find some for the masquerade that match,” she answered. He could only blink in confusion, arching a single eyebrow at her luscious silver wings.
    “We do?” he asked, his ignorance enough to have her stop her determined trek towards the costume makers.
    “Of course we do – we can’t not match when the announcement is made, that would look awful,” she replied with a look that suggested he should know what she was talking about. Sadly, he did not.
    “What announcement?” he asked even as she continued on down the streets and alleys she was all too familiar with.
    “Our engagement you ninny,” she giggled, stopping short as something occurred to her. “Which we should actually discuss because once it’s been announced are we still going to pretend to hate each other or can I ravage you in public?”
    The smile she wore on her face faded when she turned to face him and realized he was not smiling as well. In fact, she would go so far as to say he was downright livid.
    “You’re… not laughing…” she hazarded, clearly confused by his lack of knowledge. That only made things worse in his mind, causing him to frown horribly as he turned sharply on his heel and headed back to the inn. “Gannon! Wait, where are you going?!”
    He ignored her entirely, hearing her footsteps dogging his as he charged back to the Dancing Crow all but ripping the door to his father’s chambers off its hinges as he stormed in.
    “I’m engaged now?!” he roared, anger and hurt flowing off of him in waves he could not entirely control. Taelon sat with the Emperor as did his cousin Danyel who had arrived earlier that morning. Both stood from the abruptness of Gannon’s entrance, both as confused as the Emperor by his outburst. “Were you actually planning on telling me or were you hoping she’d save you the trouble?!”
    “You hadn’t told him??” Noelani asked from the doorway, almost afraid to enter the large apartments.
    “Gannon, sit down,” Matthias began in a poor attempt to calm his son and salvage the situation before it grew too far out of control. “That’s what I wanted to discuss with you when you were dragged off.”
    “That’s what you wanted to discuss?? You couldn’t have said something on the four hour journey down here?? Or yesterday or the day before or anytime time prior to now??”
    “I hadn’t had the chance to discuss something so delicate with you,” Matthias tried knowing it would do no good. Gannon’s temper was notorious throughout the Empire and something not commonly crossed by anyone. In that regard, people had right to fear his Talent and Power for the prince had brought entire cities to their knees with his Empathic abilities on more than one occasion because of his shift in mood.
    “Delicate my ass you’ve been discussing this since I was old enough to walk! How is this delicate?!”
    “Because it isn’t just regarding your engagement, damnit!” the Emperor finally hollered, stilling the room to absolute silence. Both Taelon and Danyel merely glanced at each other and then Noelani who still hovered in the doorway before looking back at the bickering father and son.
    “Then please elaborate for me,” Gannon said stiffly.
    “The Council… will be announcing your engagement to Noelani at the masque; Zeru will be adding your acceptance to the Esbethi throne alongside Noelani’s… and the Council will announce Danyel as the heir to the Phoenix Crown.”
    “I beg your pardon?” Danyel said, apparently not having been told his role in all of this either.
    “Wait, what??” Noelani screeched on the heels of Danyel’s words leaving Taelon gaping like a fish out of water at the lot of them.
    “As I said,” Matthias said softly as he took his seat once more. “I had not had a chance to discuss something so delicate with you; either of you.”
    Gannon could think of nothing to say, snorting out a dry laugh instead. The fleeting moment in the carriage where he felt close to his father was now overshadowed by the very obvious fact that the Emperor had become little more than a pawn to the Council’s machinations; a puppet on very short strings. While the news was blunt and ill-timed, it was not unexpected in the least. However, the fact that it had been kept from him – and everyone else – at all was what made the entire situation so enraging. They all continually tread around him like he was some bomb with a fuse that had no set length. He was forced out of Council sessions and kept in the dark about as much as was mortally possible for them to keep all because of his Gifts and a lasting fear of the unknown.
    “Well…” he said finally, feeling the hate and anger rising up inside him. “Gods bless the crown then.”
    He said nothing more, storming back out the way he had come so that the four that remained could only stare at his retreating back. Matthias felt all of his remaining energy leave on the breath of a heavy sigh. While the ailing Emperor had expected resistance to his announcement and decision, he had hoped it would have been more controlled than what he got.
    “Do you make an effort to make him hate you or do you just do it by accident?” Noelani asked from the doorway with a frown making her beautiful visage turn almost ugly. The avian amatessa had never had a problem speaking her mind to anyone, regardless of who that might be and the Emperor was no exception. It was obvious that her words stung for Matthias could only gape at her rather than provide an answer.
    “He tries so hard to make you happy; to make you proud,” Noelani continued angrily. “And all you can do to show your affection is let everyone push him down. When is it going to be enough? When he finally breaks like you want him to? When he rids you all of his ‘problems’ by jumping off a cliff?!”
    “Noelani...” Taelon tried to cut in but failed.
    “I have no problems saying that you disgust me. You and your pathetically useless Council,” she said acidly leaving the men in shock as she turned and followed in Gannon’s footsteps.



    Anyway, you both bring up valid points - I KNOW that my readers aren't my players but I always seem to have difficulty figuring out how much to tell and how much not to tell. I've tried to have people read who have nothing at all to do with my campaign read this but, unfortunately, the critque I get back is not all that great or helpful in terms of content. They'll point out my excessive (or else inadequate) use of various punctuation marks but nothing about the story itself other than 'I liked it'. And, while appreciated, SO not helpful... Again, my goal is to have them be "complete" short stories and this, at least in my mind, seems to be lacking something that I can't put my finger on and this is 1 of 9 that I have written... ugh.

  5. #5
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    Michelle,

    You can tell, from that first sentence, that you aren't rolling loaded dice here. Right?

    I'm assuming that you want to publish a book of short stories, is that right?

    Put aside the issue of ss vs. interludes, this just isn't the sort of material paying customers are willing to step outside the lines with a writer for. You gotta be genius for that. You're still working out basics.

    The purpose of a puppet, generally, is to entertain, yet for the puppet it is just a form of control.

    There's no clarity about "it". The last noun was puppet, but we know that wouldn't make sense. "...yet for the puppet the puppet is just a form of control." No, that sounds stupid. So we try "entertain. " ...yet for the puppet entertain is just a form of control." Uck, no. We try "purpose." "...yet for the puppet purpose is just a form of control."

    Okay, we think, this could work. We want to forgive the writer all this work we had to do. We're feeling super smart to have figured it out.

    By the next sentence we realize we were wrong. Here's how we, after having to guess what the author meant, read it. Control is tugged on taught strings that control control's movements and mannerisms – control's very existence. Lets leave aside the fact that the writer wants us to believe the strings were taught rather than taunt -- we're in a forgiving state of mind and it's a tautological snare anyway, easy to fall into. But by the end of sentence two, we realize the writer has no control over his/her words. Cuss, sip a whiskey, and slam the book shut.

    So, the answer to your first question is NO. Do not try to do anything different. You lack the ability as yet. If you ache toward an experimental sort of writing, learn to nail the basics before you step over the line in the sand. Anything else is self-indulgent, which is fine if you don't want strangers to pay for the privilege of reading you. Buck up and get back to clear and powerful writing with a clear and powerful story arcs. Once you've got a paying following of that sort and are pretty sure your prose is brilliant, scratch that experiment itch, which, by the way, I think is intriguing, but only under the fingertips of a master word-story smith.

  6. #6
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    The goal, yes, would be to publish a collection of my stories. At the moment, my concern was that there was no definite and solid story format to what I'd written. I haven't done massive edits to any of the stories yet because I'm hung up on the fact that they seem to linger unfinished. Perhaps it is a bit much of an undertaking to try to get all of them written and done but its an effort I'm willing to put in.

    I can see, now, how the first sentence is confusing. NaNo's goal is to get words on the proverbial paper. I did that but not with any real style, grace or even sense. Honestly, I appreciate you being blunt - no one else has so it's nice to hear what needs to be fixed. I need to go back and read stuff I wrote before I started running D&D campaigns...

    Thank you! I'll be back as soon as I figure out these silly words!

  7. #7
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    Sure. Remember just one opinion. There's got to be literary journals and such that stretch the definitions of ss. Would be fun to see what fringe/experimental writers are doing these day. The cross-over stuff happening with electronic books and merging more narratives with games is a brave new world. Let us know what you end up discovering and deciding to do. I'm just fascinate with how various art forms are co-mingling.

  8. #8
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    Michelle,

    First, others may disagree with me. They have before. Will again.

    The purpose of a puppet, generally, is to entertain, yet for the puppet it is just a form of control. I DON'T HAVE THE FAINTEST IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS RELATIVE TO YOUR STORY. It is tugged on taught strings that control its movements and mannerisms – it’s very existence. SEE ABOVE. There was a time when strength ruled the Phoenix Empire and her people flourished despite differences with her more savage kin. But that time slowly CONSIDER DELETING SLOWLY. DOESN'T FADED AWAY MEAN THE SAME THING? faded away into the memories of the wise and the pages of the history books GO TO STAPLES. BUY AT LEAST ONE COMMA. leaving only a withered shell of what once was to be tugged on the strings of prejudice, greed and blind pride. SEE MY FIRST COMMENT.
    No longer was the purpose of the puppet to rule, but rather, to act as a front for more subtle manipulations that slowly began to rip the mighty empire apart. Decisions were made that were in the best interest of the Council rather than the people while still maintaining the appearance of being ‘for the good of all’. It was a vicious cycle that was as exhausting as fighting a battle against an endless army I WAS WRONG. BUY A CASE OF COMMAS if not worse and a cycle that was gradually wearing everyone down regardless of their place, station or title.

    I WON'T READ MORE. I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S GOING ON. I'M SURE YOU DO, BUT THIS READER IS LOST AT SEA.

    OKAY, caps off. Your writing needs lots of work. Lots. Get me into the story from the git go. The short portion I read is littered with weak words. Look for ways to show instead of telling. They ain't nothing wrong with a bit of telling, but...

    Look for ways to eliminate excessive use of "was." Turn those sentences/phrases into something more immediate.

    Cur

  9. #9
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    Re: Short Stories vs Interludes

    *box of commas purchased* *hangs head*

    I am now wondering if I'm starting at the wrong point in my timeline. Or perhaps the wrong scenarios? (This, of course, goes back to the interlude vs ss since an interlude doesn't care what point or scenario it is describing) My fear, too, I think, is that if I start from the beginning I'll murder a small forest (virtual or otherwise) before it's done.

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