It Was the Best of Times for a Short Story Writer
Hyman, Ann, The Florida Times Union
It's time again for The Florida Times-Union's Holiday Short
A few people are already working on their stories, judging by
telephone calls looking for the guidelines. Some have just begun
and some have been thinking it over since last December, coming
up with fresh yarns or re-writing entries that didn't make the
cut in years past.
Many teachers use the competition as a learning tool and will
work up English composition and creative writing lessons aimed
toward helping each student produce a short story to enter in
We'll receive, read and judge hundreds of entries before the
winners are selected.
Part of the Thanksgiving ritual at a few of our houses has
become, along with turkey and the University of Florida/Florida
State University football game, the reading of the holiday
The way it seems to work every year is that, in the first
weeks, we get nervous that nobody is entering the contest this
Then, all of a sudden, we get nervous that everybody is
entering the contest this year.
But, experience teaches the judges to have faith. In 17 years,
writers have not failed to come up with good, entertaining
stories as winners of the Holidays Short Story Contest.
A few hints for writers might be helpful.
Remember, it's a short story contest, not an essay or memoir or
The mark of a good short story is conflict. The conflict can be
big, or little, dramatic or comic. It can be a person against
nature, friend against friend, or friend against enemies. It can
be a person in conflict with himself -- Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
-- as, perhaps, a character decides whether to give his
Christmas money to a good cause or to buy a bike.
Pauline Bloom writes, in Handbook of Short Story Writing
(Writer's Digest Books, $12.99), that "A good short story is
essentially the history of a conflict. It starts with the
realization of it, and, as it proceeds, the conflict grows,
until a climax, the highest point of interest in a story, is
reached. Then the conflict is resolved to end the story."
Remember, don't make things easy for the characters, even if
you did invent them. They need problems to solve, plenty of
obstacles to overcome.
Stories can't wander all over the map like real life.
They need a beginning, a middle and an end.
The beginning should introduce the main characters, tell us a
little of the circumstances of the story, set up the conflict,
set the tone -- Comic? …