Some years ago, former-US President George W. Bush named The Very Hungry Caterpillar as his favourite childhood book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t published until he was 23 and fresh out of Yale. Still, while it’s not advanced post-graduate reading, it does have a perfect structure, from which we can learn a lot.
In this video, D.D. Johnston discusses how imagery is often the connecting point between subject and theme (for a reminder about subject and theme, see writing tip 71). He looks at Ian McEwan’s short story ‘Psychopolis’ and presents a weird theory about Magpies. Psychopolis is available here, starting on page 52.
In our last video, we considered the similarities between short stories and jokes. We said that, just like the punchline of a joke, whatever happens at the climax of a story is unexpected, but in retrospect seems obvious and inevitable. In this video, DD Johnston develops that idea and think about what it is that happens at the climax of most successful literary short stories. (We say ‘literary’ short stories, since in other genres the endings of stories can sometimes be more about plot resolution than character transition.)
In the run up to this year’s Online Writing Tips Short Fiction Competition, we’re doing a series of posts on short fiction. Previous videos have looked at beginning a short story. Today, D.D. Johnston begins to reflect on the importance of endings, and why short stories are like jokes.
We hope you’ve all had a happy new year and that 2018 is treating you well. 2018 could be a prosperous year, for you have the chance to win the richest literary prize currently offered anywhere on this website.
Yes, the Online Writing Tips Short Fiction Prize is back for 2018, and the deadline has just been announced as midnight on May 31st (GMT). It’s free to enter and international entrants are welcome. There’s no theme, but to get an idea of what we’re looking for, check out the winning story from 2016 and the winning story from 2017. In 2018, first prize will again be a sumptuous £100, with £50 for second place, and £25 for third. All the submission information is available here – good luck!