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The Art & Craft of the Short Story

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The author "Shares advice from his years of writing and teaching experience on how to write a short story. His instruction is wise and accessible, a mix of insights and strategies, practical excercises, and exampleas classic stories from writers such as Erneit Hemingway, Anton Chekhov, and Eudora Welty."

232 pages, Hardcover

First published May 1, 2000

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About the author

Rick DeMarinis

37 books6 followers
Rick DeMarinis (1934-) is an American novelist and short-story writer.

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5 stars
37 (29%)
4 stars
51 (40%)
3 stars
29 (23%)
2 stars
8 (6%)
1 star
1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews
Profile Image for Steven.
Author 2 books94 followers
August 30, 2016
I ordered this book without looking at it first because I’ve enjoyed a lot of DeMarinis’s stories, but I don’t think I would have bought it if I’d skimmed it in a bookstore. Not that it is a bad book. I think it is probably a great book on writing short stories, especially for those just starting on that path. It’s the kind of book I wish I’d had years ago, not that there isn’t something to learn from it now. It’s just that it didn’t help me to understand a better way to write about emotions the way Hood’s Creating Character Emotions did. And it didn’t teach me to read better as a writer the way Bell’s Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form did. DeMarinis does provide good examples from famous stories, and those are always good reminders. He also included a half dozen of his own stories in their entirety, so that’s a nice bonus.
Profile Image for Marc.
789 reviews110 followers
December 26, 2018
Picked this up on a whim at the library when I saw it on the shelves. It far exceeded my expectations--quite an enjoyable read with some wonderful examples, concrete advice, and multiple admissions that a lot of writing is sitting down and doing the hard work of writing (there are no shortcuts or secrets or special formulas). DeMarininis starts out with the confession that despite having written 100s of short stories, taught short-story writing for years, and had his work published, he still doesn't know how to write a short story. So what he provides instead are approaches to consider, how the parts fit together, and practical things you can do to let the story lead you where it needs to go. There's nothing ground-breaking here, but it is engagingly presented and all but one of the examples were a delight to read. The only trick is persistence despite all the obstacles (rejection, time constraints, the need to pay bills, etc.) you will inevitably encounter. DeMarinis subscribes to the school of thought that writing should be a daily habit, one you exercise whether you feel like it or not. He provides a number of prompts and exercises for those days when the going is tougher with the intent of getting past one's "Controller":
The Controller is the part of your ego that needs to know what it's doing. It hates confusion and misdirection; it distrusts eccentric impulse. It's the map reader, schedule planner, and bean counter. It's the skeptic who loves to kill an idea in its infancy by subjecting it to too many reality checks. Its role is protective: It doesn't want you to make a fool of yourself. It doesn't trust the irrational side of your personality. It wants to protect your public image. But the Controller is dumb. It's so dumb it thinks you have a public image."

He also breaks down the various point-of-view options in a more interesting way than I've read before. And, like any good writing teacher, he leaves you feeling inspired and encouraged. Keep in mind, this book is fully concerned with the act of writing and the related creative decisions you'll have to make--if you're looking for something related to getting published, marketing, etc., this is not your book.

I leave you with a few more pearls of wisdom:
"Contemporary fiction is about people who want something and don't know how to get it or are prevented---by internal or external forces---from finding it. ...The commercial fiction of fifty years ago was about characters achieving---after the necessary setbacks and delays---the objects of their desires. This type of fiction has been appropriated by the movies."

"A rule of thumb: When everything that needs to be said has been said, the story is finished. The trick of course is knowing when that requirement has been satisfied."

"What you set out to do is not all that important. What is important is what develops along the way. The way is hard, and may require many rewrites, but if there is something there in the first place, it will emerge."

Profile Image for Colin.
Author 5 books127 followers
August 22, 2019
A highly idiosyncratic look at . . . well, what it says on the tin. The art and craft of the short story. I picked it up from my local library because it caught my eye, and because I feel the need to do a degree of "professional development reading" every once in a while - particularly when I'm not getting any writing done. As I write this, I'm a few weeks into a new teaching job, and between that and my family responsibilities, I am unable to write much right now. So, I'm reading about writing. This book offers very little in the way of advice, practical or otherwise - it mostly feels like an exploration of the author's personal views on challenged faced by short story writers, with some illustrative examples. give it 3/5 - it's not bad, it's just not great.
Profile Image for Andrea.
313 reviews16 followers
June 10, 2017
This book was incredibly helpful for me and it really challenged me to write outside my comfort zone and start crafting more short stories (which is what I wanted). For many years, I've had many "short story ideas" but I've been filing them away because I struggle with writing short stories (to be fair, I struggled with reading short stories too but that is something that is changing about my reading habits and I am learning to love the craft and to want to engage more in it). If you are someone who's maybe a beginner at writing short stories or has been struggling with the craft for years, I think this book is perfect for you.

Here are some reasons why I loved it:

1- It's fun! DeMarinis is a very engaging writer. Reading the book I felt like I was in one of his lectures rather than reading a textbook (which would have bored me to pieces)

2-There's no formula or "right way" to write short stories, he just gives you suggestions and an overview of short story writing so you can find your own way. I love that.

3-The writing exercises are fun and truly challenging.

4-The uses of short stories throughout and the way he deconstructs and uses his own short stories as examples is pretty helpful (and also, he doesn't sound like he's full of himself but that he is opening up to us; it's almost a show of vulnerability and it was very comforting)

5- It really didn't try to sell you anything.

6-It was full of fun, believable stories (about himself, his students, the writing life) that I found very enriching and that added a lot to my enjoyment of this book.

Overall, I would mark it as a most read, but I'll just call it a favorite.
Profile Image for Sydney.
7 reviews
September 1, 2019
If you’re looking into getting this book because you’re trying to become a better writer then don’t bother. The only way that this book is going to be able to help you in that sense is repeatedly telling you to write as much and as often as possible (practice makes perfect right?), which is a task that should already be on your “To-Do List” if you want to become a writer.

If you’re looking into getting this book because you want to feel inspired to write, then I’d say this book is worth your time. Reading even just a few pages can be inspiring enough (to the right person I suppose) to knock out a few hundred or thousand words of your own.
Profile Image for Rhonda Browning.
Author 1 book11 followers
February 6, 2012
This is one of the few texts I’ve found dealing specifically with problems unique to short story writing. Some of the advice in this book is universal to writing in general, however it is particularly applicable to abbreviated stories. DeMarinis both begins and ends his book with a chilling confession: “I don’t know how to write a short story” (4, 224). Frightening though his beginning and ending statements may be (in between them is couched over two hundred pages of solid advice and direct examples), they are somehow freeing. Sure, there are rules to follow when writing short stories, but those rules serve as guidelines, not as binding strictures that force writers into a cookie-cutter formula of limited creativity. It also helps us realize that, whether we’re beginning writers or advanced writers with plenty of publications under our belts, we all face doubts and mysteries as we apply our minds to the first blank page of story writing.

For me, the best thing about this text wasn’t simply that it addressed common writing issues in the often-difficult parameters of short story writing, but that it provided direct examples from the short stories of masters like Hemingway, Chekhov, Welty and Faulker, as well as both successes and failures from DeMarinis’s own work. It was helpful to see the thought process of a respected short story writer in this revealing way. I plan to keep this text, not only as an instrument for personal use and application to my own work, but for the reason that it will make a fine tool for teaching purposes because of the categorized references to important short stories.

Profile Image for Richard Magahiz.
384 reviews4 followers
November 6, 2016
The short story in English is an especially protean type of expression which can cause fits for those who try to define how it is supposed to work. The author's humility in taking this task on is admirable, and so is the more modest strategy of talking about the different aspects of craft by using examples from stories both real and fake. Someone who is really just coming to the idea of writing stories for the first time will probably be baffled by the lack of a simple statement of what makes a good short story versus a bad one, but someone who's tried their hand at them might find a lot they can resonate with in the examples he gives.
Profile Image for Gavin Breeden.
352 reviews71 followers
December 14, 2011
I read the first half, and thoroughly skimmed the second half. There is a tremendous amount of overlap among books on writing. But each writer presents a couple original nuggets. This book is no exception. Some helpful things from a different perspective. This is a good one for beginners. Lots of examples, some famous and some from the author himself.
Profile Image for Thomas Edmund.
940 reviews58 followers
July 19, 2012
There isn't really too much so say on this that a simple - good advice on shorty stories, and general writing too, doesn't cover. Obviously the focus of this book is more on Short Stories (and of the literary kind) however I recommend it to all writers wanting to hone their craft, as DeMarinis provides excellent advice on style, analogy and P.O.V. all of which is applicable to novel writing also.
Profile Image for malrubius.
306 reviews5 followers
January 30, 2013
Not very well organized, and chapters like "Form" are less about form than about attempting unconventional forms, but this monograph is definitely one step more advanced and insightful than the usual "Writer's Digest" craft books, etc, with regard to the creative process and the writer's choices and the special requirements and character of the short story form.
Profile Image for John Hanson.
175 reviews15 followers
September 10, 2015
A worthy read but heavy on filler. I thought his assertion that plot equates to antecedent events was off base. Plot to me equates to the conflict. Antecedent events are one of the forms of conflict and do not necessarily create plot -- contrast, antithesis, but construction, etc. Yeah, this is MFA land, a realm I do not belong in, so I will stop.
Profile Image for Amy Saunders.
Author 28 books127 followers
October 13, 2008
A more advanced play-by-play of the short story. Equipped with exercises that make you think and then write outside of your comfort zone. There are not too many books dedicated to short story writing so this is a gem.
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 3 books14 followers
July 5, 2008
Good for those just getting their feet wet. Contains some interesting exercises and tips, but it lacked somewhat when it came to technical craft elements. Not bad though.
Profile Image for Hannah.
Author 1 book8 followers
September 6, 2014
Excellent book on the craft of the short story, but filled with useful advice for fiction writers in general.
Displaying 1 - 16 of 16 reviews

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