Building the Short Story is Just Alchemy
GrubStreet instructor alex terrell shares the writing advice she wished she hadn't received and the true alchemy of the short story. You can learn more about this subject in alex’s upcoming Online: On Demand class Beginning to End: Building the Short Story, starting March 2nd.
When I began writing, here’s a couple of things I wish someone would NOT have told me:
- show, don’t tell.
- dialogue has to be realistic.
Here’s something I wish someone WOULD HAVE told told me:
- Get the alchemy right, you strike gold.
Historically, alchemy was defined as “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.” Writing is a lot like that. It's the transformation of an idea into something others will connect with. Let me explain.
Like the alchemists of old, we too are searching for a way to create gold, story gold. The way we do this is by construction, deconstruction, and re-construction until we have struck the sweet spot, the place where we find that specific combination of writing chemicals that work. But to become story alchemists, we must study and experiment with different aspects of fiction like setting and point of view.
Like the alchemists of old, we too are searching for a way to create gold, story gold.
When we write, we go through a number of stages: inception, drafting, revision, revision, revision… and so on, all the way to a publishable manuscript. In other words, we create something, and then we continue to refine it through our writing process. Somewhere in the middle of all that tinkering and toiling, we create something wonderful. Something worth sharing.
Somewhere in the middle of all that tinkering and toiling, we create something wonderful. Something worth sharing.
In Beginning to End: Building the Short Story, we’ll do just that. We’ll start with “The Seed” in which we will look at the seeds of stories and then come up with our own. Once we’ve come up with our own seeds, we’ll progress through the next few weeks considering setting, point of view, character building, and many other essential elements of storytelling as we work toward our polished drafts in week ten.
This process will bring you to a more realized version of that story you’ve been dying to tell. And with the right amount of refining, this course will get you that much closer to a publishable draft of story gold.
To join alex’s 10-week Online: On Demand class Beginning to End: Building the Short Story, starting March 2nd, please just come prepared to explore your own ideas. You do not need extensive workshop experience, and traditionally underrepresented writers are encouraged to register. Scholarships are available.
alex terrell (she/her) is a Black Southern writer and maker of worlds. Her interests include Black Girl Magic and how Black girls manage being powerful in fictional spaces. She has a special interest in magical realism and genre fiction. Her work has been featured in Black Warrior Review, Puerto del Sol Magazine, Best American Experimental Fiction and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the 2018 Robert J. Dau/Pen America Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers. She would like you all to know she is one of the Dora Milaje who protects the King in Black Panther, she's a Gryffindor, though with some Ravenclaw mixed in, and she is House Stark!See other articles by alex terrell