If you follow these rules, you are guaranteed to produce an American
Short Story Masterpiece.
- Begin with both feet on the ground. Grab the reader by the throat
and don’t let go until they are gasping for breath or pass out.
Clearly identify in your own mind, “What is at stake for the
protagonist?” (see item 3)
- The story must be short since it is a short story. It can be long,
but really short is better. Short is fifteen pages.
- There must be a protagonist who is a likeable, if conflicted,
person, recognizable as a human being.
- Protagonist must undergo a change in a dramatic scene chased by
lyric passage of descriptive prose. Run this test: Is the character
different at the end of the story? Wearing a fresh laundered pantsuit
doesn’t count. We will call this moment “the epiphany” and it
must occur on page thirteen of the fifteen page short story.
- Significant stories take place in real places, in real settings
using realistic situations. To make your story fun or flaunt the idea
of a “significant short story” throw in something off-the-wall, like a
talking otter driving a 1976 Buick Regal. If asked about the otter
driving a 1976 Buick Regal, use the word “allegorical.”
- Use the house style, that is, no adverbs, few adjectives, and keep
your sentences spare and in decent order. Repeat: Subject. Verb.
Direct Object. A story isn’t true, so it’s best to use
- Contemplate the following maxims:
- Show; don’t tell.
- Less is More.
- Nothing is new under the sun.
Once finished with your story, you will have an American Short Story