Saturday, March 24, 2012

Carole Fowkes: Short Stories (Guest Post)

Carole Fowkes is a freelance journalist, as well as a food and restaurant reviewer.  Her articles and short stories have appeared in Dallas Morning News, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Cup of Comfort, and several other short story and news publications.  She has six books published with Ink Lion Books.  Carole’s writing has a quirky twist Joe R. Landsdale fans will enjoy.  I met Carole through Writers-Unite, and we quickly set up a guest post.  Keep reading to rediscover the magical world of short stories!

Many children grow up reading short stories, perhaps about fuzzy bears or cute puppies.  As they get older, some switch to novels and never look back.  What a shame, since those readers are missing out on a wonderfully compact delight.
That’s right, the short story.

Most people will agree a short story can conveniently be read in one sitting.  But that isn’t the only thing that makes this type of literature such a joy.  As a published writer and lover of short stories, I want to tell you what I believe makes them not just good, but compelling reads.  The very first thing is the story’s opening. 

Since it’s written to be read in one sitting, the short story’s beginning must catch the reader’s attention not just in the first paragraph, but in the first line.  Since, by definition, a short story has fewer words than a novel, each word must count for something, and this is no truer than in the opening.  The first line also sets the story’s tone. For example, in Carol Ann, my story of a sin-eater, I hope to do both by beginning with, “Nick first spotted her in late October as she worked the street with the other hustlers.”  

As for the body of these story types, if a sentence or even a word doesn’t move the plot along, it should be eliminated.  This goes for extraneous characters as well.  Whenever I write dialogue or introduce a new character, I have to ask myself, for what purpose?  I’m the first to admit I have a hard time eliminating something in my story I consider witty.  But when it’s critiqued by other writers, if it isn’t needed, it goes.

Along with keeping the characters and what they say on target, the same is true with the central theme or idea.  If more than one theme presents itself, the writer may be creating a novel because a short story only allows the full development of one central idea.  With more, the author risks the reader getting to the end and wondering where the rest of the story went.  Or worse, the original idea is watered down in an effort to keep the word count low and the reader loses interest.

So much for the beginning and middle of a short story, but what about the end?  Even if the short story is horror or fantasy such as what I write, the story should come to a logical conclusion.  For example, unless it’s set up in the plot, a demon bent on destruction will not, at the very end save the village.   
And now, the logical end of this all is to encourage those of you who haven’t read a short story in a while to pick one up.  You never know what thrills await you in those compact, written pages.

To learn more about Carole and her books, visit or 

Here are two of Carole's books.  Purchase Thirsthere and Little Cookbook of Horrors vol.2 here in ebook format only. badly do you want to pick up a short story?  Thank you so much Carole for writing this amazing post for us!  Happy Short Story Day!


M Mariotti said...

I just recently started reading short stories. Never care for them before, but now I actually enjoy them. Thanks for the interesting information on them.

C. Fowkes said...

Hi M. Glad you saw the light and now see how entertaining short stories can be. And you're welcome for the information.

Kathleen Baldwin said...

I've read most of your short stories and enjoyed them.

I love short stories! I enjoy being able to start and finish a whole story during my lunch break.

It's like being able to fit in a fun half hour sitcom versus sitting through a long two and a half hour movie.

Short stories can sometimes be more intense than a whole book, and are often thought-provoking. A short story doesn't seem like as big of an emotional commitment, either. OTH, I can remember some short stories that have had a big impact on me.

As you mentioned, every word counts in a short story. Whereas in a novel a writer can meander and then I have to skim.

I love the crisp succinct writing in a short story. Every word evokes an image or advances the plot.

And because of that, IMO, you short story writers have to work harder, be better at the nuances of words, and subtleties in characterization, than novelists. Like poets you must consider every word.

Good on ya, Carole! Thanks for the interesting article.

HilyBee said...

I completely agree with you Kathleen! :D

C. Fowkes said...

Hi Kathleen,
Thanks for your comments. IT's truly great to see a fellow short story fan. I agree with you about some short stories making a huge impact. I remember reading Edgar Allen Poe as a child (weird, huh?). I loved his short stories and obviously, they made a huge impact on my writing.

Anonymous said...

I usually don't read short stories. I love the feeling of being in the throes of a novel, seeing life through the eyes of the narrator, hearing his or her voice in my mind's ear. But these short stories grab me quickly and I'm tossed in to a world that bears little resemblance to LIFE. It is a fun read and a journey worth taking.

Nancy Bauer said...

Your writing has introducted me to short stories and yours are the best! Deranged Seating was fabulous! And I love your recipes. Keep us posted on all your new publications. We are looking forward to reading them.

C. Fowkes said...

Anonymous, you put the beauty of reading short stories very well. Thank you.

C. Fowkes said...

Hi Nancy, Thank you so much for your comments. I'm glad you liked "Deranged Seating". It's my first novella and if you're interested, the sequel will be coming out soon.