Another semester is coming to an end, and what a weird one it has been. With classes over, it’s crunch time for final exams, essays, and projects. One of my final projects this year includes a short story collection, the culmination of a semester’s worth of work. The goal of it is to see my original creative work, which was submitted on a regular basis throughout the past few months, in a complete, polished state.
RCHUMS 325 is a “tutorial,” which is a unique opportunity to participate in one-on-one writing workshops with the Residential College’s creative writing faculty. Tutorials are meant to support students in expanding our understanding of the craft of writing. Through them, we also grow as young artists in developing our voices and creative visions. As such, the course I took centers around creating (and submitting) new and revised stories weekly, which are influenced by critical reflection done both individually and collaboratively with an instructor.
As I learned in another creative writing class, RCHUMS 220 (Narration), I tend to write longer short stories, as contradictory as that may sound. Doing a tutorial this past semester has been invaluable in writing fiction that is around 5-10 pages long, which is shorter than my “short” stories usually are. After this experience, I’d highly recommend that any writer tries their hand at writing a short story from start to finish. Why? Writing short stories can help a person further develop various writing skills, as the process unveils many of the questions and predicaments faced when crafting fiction of any length.
A short story is a chance to create a unique character and storyline, perhaps without requiring as much of a time commitment as a full-length novel. If a writer has trouble with the plot or characters in their short story, it might highlight some areas to work on when writing other works, too. Like any other art form, writing takes practice, and short story writing can help a person improve on a few different elements of general fiction writing.
While it may seem like writing a short story would be easier than writing longer works, it still comes with its own challenges and opportunities for growth as a writer. A good short story must tell a compelling story with a beginning, middle, and end in noticeably fewer pages than a typical novel. Generally, that limits the number of scenes, characters, and plot points that can be included. There’s not as much room for “fluff,” or extraneous information that doesn’t add anything to the story. Thus, writing a short story is good practice for both pacing and extensive editing. While a novel may detail years of a character’s life, a short story may encompass only a day. This was one of the biggest lessons that I learned this semester through my creative writing tutorial. In being accustomed to longer stories, I tried to cover more time than was feasible in one of my short stories, which required heavy revision to improve the storyline and flow.
It can also be deceptively difficult to make a reader feel a certain way about a character when they witness only a snippet of said character’s life. Yet, there are also some advantages to writing stories of shorter length. Shorter timelines may not allow for as an authentic evolution of certain relationships or character arcs, but they can create faster stories. This results in an opportunity to cultivate motion and tension for a more engaging plot and streamlined story. Considering this information can help a writer decide whether they want their idea to be a short story, novella, or longer work based on how much time is necessary for the storyline to unfurl to optimal result. Based on my experiences with RCHUMS 325 this past semester, this is something I’ll keep in mind moving forward, and maybe you will, too.
RCHUMS 220: Narration and RCHUMS 325: Creative Writing Tutorial are available during fall and winter semesters through LSA’s Residential College (RC). RC courses are not exclusive to RC students; however, instructor permission is needed to enroll in RCHUMS 325. Check out the RC Writers page here!