Decided this morning I should try some short stories but I needed help with outline formats. Found these with a quick Google search. First one looks best.
I completed the first 4 NaNoWriMo themed Coursera classes from Wesleyan earlier this year. They were super beneficial for me. This is one exercise from the course on setting and description. The instructions were to write about a ritual or routine in specific and significant detail in 500 to 750 words. I wrote mine about a specific type of doctor office visit appointment… getting my Xolair shots.
You went around twice before you find an empty space. You park your car, turn it off, take a breath and gather yourself, and leave and lock your car. You walk in the vague direction of the door, there’s no clear path between the cars – both parked and moving. It’s bright and a little too hot.
You pull up and park at the curb. Your travel time was less than 40 minutes; you skipped the construction on the highway. Before you leave the car, you take a breathe and gather yourself. From the curb the door to the office is less than a dozen steps. Immediately inside there is the window with sliding glass with a low counter. You nod in greeting, the woman behind the window slides open the small glass door, greets you, and passes you the clip board. You write your name and today’s date on the appropriate spaces and hand the clipboard back. The woman nods at you and you head on back through the door to the right. There’s a decoration of a smiling yellow face on the door which reminds you of decorations in elementary school.
Walking to the back, you pass a medical assistant and he says hi but nothing more, he’s busy. In the infusion center, not all the chairs are full. You never know if your appointment will be in a crowded room or if it’ll be you and the staff.
The head infusion nurse, Lynn, greets you with a smile, like always. She’s busy starting an IV for the young woman in the first chair. You smile, stopping at hi, while she’s with another patient. There are 8 chairs lined up on the right side, spaced enough for room for nurses to administer to their patients. You pick the third from the front. It’s one of the more comfortable dark red chairs. You place your bottle of water and phone on the table, your bag on the floor at your feet, and dig out your novel. You sit down, trying to get comfortable, for now the book is in your lap. The other older nurse, Kate, comes out from the back room where the wide variety of medicines and supplies are stored. The vials, bags, and syringes. This nurse is somewhat reserved but still friendly.
She greets you, “Good morning! Your Xolair is mixing.”
This means your shots are ready in 10 to 15 minutes. The medicine is thick and they don’t mix it until you arrive. In the meantime she brings you a blood pressure cuff, the small battery powered type that goes on your wrist. You attach the cuff around your left wrist and position your arm. The nurse stands ready to write down your vitals.
“124/76. Pulse 89.” She records the numbers as an alarm starts. The IV medicine for the second patient needs attention and the nurse heads to turn off the alarm. The alarms no longer startle you. Lynn is still busy with the same patient.
You sit quietly. The woman in the first chair is young and on oxygen. A thick book sits in her lap. The second patient is older than you, with her chair reclined. Sleeping perhaps? She’s curled up under a brightly colored fleece blanket. The fourth chair – to your right – makes the small child curled between the chairs even smaller. You don’t know how old he is but he doesn’t talk. He appears engrossed in his game on the tablet. It’s one of those educational games meant for kids to practice identifying words or colors and such. His watchful mother is nearby, periodically scrutinizing her phone.
Lynn is walking toward you with 2 syringes. How did you miss her leaving the room? She pulls up the short stool identical to every other doctor’s office and sits down near you. You sit forward in the chair and turn, offering your right arm first, as she pops the cap off syringe number one. The medicine goes into the back of your upper arm. That soft fleshy bit. Even knowing what to expect, the burning pinch is still a surprise. Now the first syringe is empty and she retrieves the second. This one goes in your left arm. You suck air through your teeth and it makes a hissing noise as she slowly pushes the syringe empty. One arm always seems to hurt more than the other.
“Does it hurt?”
“Just a little. Like usual.”
She nods as she finishes. You look at the clock high on the wall. 11:35. You can leave at 12:05. You must wait, in case this time your body decides the good medicine is bad. There’s almost zero risk though. You sit back, the pain in your arms a vague shadow. You open your book.
I’m sitting here on the couch staring at my laptop wishing I could write something GOOD. Weather and such has been screwing with me and my brain is – here but not. (Also on Benadryl at the moment.) Long story short I did some googling. Specifically, I searched “How to write a short story” on Google. (Technically googling isn’t a thing, but whatever. Or has Google given up on that?)
I ended up reading through three very different pages about different opinions on how to write a good short story. The one on io9.com was the most fun to read and definitely the most interesting. The article on Huff’Post was useful because it made suggestions about keeping the story under 3500 words. The third one was on about.com and probably the most conflicting because it tells the writer to follow conventional story structure but still to know when to break the rules.
All together, these articles suggest to a potential writer to make sure every word and sentence means something and provides something to the reader – whether that be plot, setting, or character information. I probably liked the advice from the article on io9.com the most in that it also warned the writer against using that cool thing that gave them the story idea as the plot. I’ve come up with cool ideas and it’s hard to remember those cool ideas aren’t the plot. It’s just the gimmick that makes the story interesting and different. The ring is the gimmick, the walk to Mordor is the plot!