Work in Progress (No, really)

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Short Story

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One of the classes I'm enrolled in, (the hardest in fact) is my Persian class which analyzes each week analyzes a short story  (داستانِ کوتاه), well actually we do two but it's spread out over the week.

To help us (because we sort of sucked) at analyzing short stories, our professor told us to go to the library and find a short story book -- a book analyzing the short story. He asked that we read the relevant parts of the book (plot, theme, characterization, point of view, environment) to gain a better understanding of the respective elements. 

The book I found is titled The Art of the Short Story, by Carl H. Grabo. I figured as I write the book, I'll write down some notes onto this blog. I'll also write some personal notes/asides/comments. The book is fairly dated, and uses a lot of literature that for reason or another I've read.  (Thank you 10th - 12th grade English!) 

Be forewarned, I'll probably try to be less funny (and since I've probably been failing at that, it might be a good thing!). 

So the very question the book addresses, and we need to address is, what is the short story? 

Is it the number of words that make a short story? If so, how many? And, how much of a difference separates a short story from a novel, or a novella. What Grabo puts forth is that we  need to imagine the short story and the novel more as colours rather than numbers. We can easily distinguish between blue and black, but what about blue and green? With colors, we can get even finer and the distinction eventually becomes difficult if not ambiguous. With this in mind, the differentiating factor between short story and novel is technique.

A short story has to gets its point across in a smaller amount of time than a novel. Therefore, it has less time to waste and has to make use of all its words. Hence, we need to pay attention to whats included (and what's not). This would be the active process in reading. I guess we could also apply this to writing, maybe when reviewing ones work. 

This is too rigid for a blog dude

Now its fine

So in a short story, it's more likely that your teacher is right. Also, I guess I should also point out, our purpose is to talk with the story, not the author. One can't talk to the author for every story, neither should they. I guess this has to do with how well an author is as well. Is the "curtain" brought up over and over again, or maybe the "blue" is mentioned or referred to in another way. The argument needs to be sound, and well-supported. 

I've only read a bit so far, but I'm already starting to question how I write. I've always had trouble imagining or understanding what active writing means. I'm not referring to an active voice, but rather an active approach to writing. The questions I usually have are, does this mean every aspect of the story should be planned out beforehand, or just the bare-bones? The answer that satisfies me for now is that it depends on the writer's tastes, but there should be some idea or thought that, behind the scenes, pushes the story -- a theme. The way I'm understanding it right now, is that if one were to look at the short within the story, in other words, the theme, symbolism and characterization, the theme can be conceived of as a plot which drives the characterization and symbols. I'd also say symbols will be both secondary and tertiary with respect to the theme. In other words something like this:
Theme --> Characterization and/or Symbol
Theme ---> Characterization --> Symbol 

(Or maybe even flipping the two works)

Also, I have a short story that I may, or may not have written. It may be posted sometime in the foreseeable future. 

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