Most everyone knows that a short story must have a beginning, middle, and an end. That the story must also frame itself around one main character (usually), must have the conflict set up straightaway, and must have a definite resolution. But then, you ask, as I ask myself this question about my stories, as well...why is no one buying them?  

Well, it could be that they suck. However, let's assume they don't suck (I don't think mine suck), and that the stories are tightly written, that the characters interesting, and that the main character has a real issue that keeps them from obtaining their goal and that in the end the character achieves their goal.  Let's also assume that the story itself shows style, is fast paced, the dialogue real, the setting visual, and the punctuation, spot on. If all these things are there, then there must be something else that's lacking.

After a lot of research and reading shorts, and re-reading shorts that have been published, I've noticed the great stories all have one of these: 
EMA -- Epiphany, Metamorphosis, Alter course.

If what happens to your main character (the character that is trying to achieve a goal) in the story doesn't also produce either an epiphany, a metamorphosis, or causes your MC to alter their present course, then this could be the reason.

With an epiphany, the character has been through hell and back, during which they have an epiphany. Their world view has changed forever. The character is different now. He/she no longer sees things in the same way. He/she will never go about things in the same fashion again. Their whole paradigm of life has changed. 

With a metamorphosis, the character has been through hell and back and now they are a different person. They could have been evil and now they are good. They could have been selfish and now they are giving. They could have hated their world and now they see the beauty in that world.

Sometimes your character will be so changed that they after they achieve their goal they will alter their present course. And sometimes your character will be so changed through their circumstances that they see the error of their ways before achieving their goal and then alter their course. The resolution will take on new meaning. 

It's awfully hard to produce a change in the heart and soul of a character in five to twenty pages. Personally, I have a real hard time with this, myself.  I think this is easier to do with a novel. You have soooooo many pages to get that done. But if you're like me, staring down at my stories after the fifth rejection, or the twentieth rejection, shaking your head, balling up your fists at the sky, then using EMA might be worth a try. Truth be told, not one of my shorts have this. I've got a lot of re-writing to do.



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    Sydney Wright

    Apocalyptic sci-fi writer, mother, wife, designer, and seeker of wisdom and truth.


    January 2013
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