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What Can a Good School Story Learn From the Great Short Story Authors?

February 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 151

A good school story should have all the essential elements of a good short story. That means you need a motivating headline, an attracting and exciting first paragraph, a developing conflict between at least two contrasting agents, a climax of the action and finally a solution of the problem (which is not always a happy ending!).

It seems also a matter of course to depict the characters and the place and time with a few words, so that the story has its own unique setting altogether. But you should not be satisfied by such a formal list of criteria. The real value, the literary quality of a school story, depends on the mixture. The characters, the plot, the setting, the conflict and the ending ought to be logical parts of a story in which all these elements match. If they don't, the story will not find many readers, and it is not very credible or convincing.

Where can you get help? The first step for someone who wants to write a special kind of text is to read the great authors. Famous short story writers have ever considered these aspects, and set up masterful combinations of these elements. So let me try to use one of the best short stories I know, Hemingway's 'Cat in the Rain'.

This story has only four pages, but it has all the named parts. There is a very precise setting, two characters have a conflict, and the end offers a solution which might be positive; at least there is the feeling of a way out to hope and change - the wishes of the young woman can come true, finally.

All that sounds simple and even banal. But this very short story is a masterpiece, because it brings all its parts and qualities together in a flow of action and dialogue that makes it unique. The question is, how do you get the ability to write such a flow of words that make it a suitable work of art, or at least a logical construction to some degree?

My answer is, not only by talent. You can learn to write a short story, and of course also a school story, when you consider some of these basic rules and ideas. Try to make up a raw structure of your story, starting perhaps with only one event of your own school life. Take it down and think about reasons, conditions, consequences, and problems related to this very event. Look for the two or three people who had to do with it, and make the second step to write the full story. Use your fantasy as well as your memory.

You should never forget dialogue. A short story is a living piece of literature with much direct communication. By using dialogue you make it not only readable but also exciting. Make people speak, and your story will speak to your readers!

Henry Arnold, author of "School Stories", has published several books on American and English novels. Using his own experience as a high school teacher for many years, he has just written his first collection of stories which deals with school life. He tries to help authors who are interested in this subject to make the first real steps towards writing school stories. His special interest is in depicting problems and patterns of the school system by literary means, e.g. school stories. You can visit his blog for more information on the topic: http://smartschoolstories.blogspot.com

Source: EzineArticles
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