Category Archives: Fiction

The Short Story, a brief survey

Not written by me!

I haven’t read all the articles (in my TO DO list), so I do not agree or disagree. I just thought to put it here for my own reference, and yours.

“A brief survey of the short story”, a series of articles published on the Guardian, written by Chris Power, organized by author.



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My short story ‘Inversion’ available

My short story “Inversion” (a pinch of Gothic horror, a touch of psycho-talk, a re-reading and re-telling of the Greek Minotaur’s legend) is published in the Yellow Booke, HERE.

This is the illustration for my story kindly provided by Old Tales Press’ editor M. Grant Kellermeyer:

Inversion Illo

I love it, love the stark b/w contrast and little details that really connect to the story and to the way I envisioned this retelling of the myth.

You can read my story “Inversion” alongside others in the Yellow Booke for free HERE.

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About Brian Aldiss


When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults.

Brian Aldiss

I just can’t Not Love an author quoted to say things like that.

Brian Aldiss is a character, as you can see from the interviews I linked below. He likes to provoke a reaction, and has been known to openly criticise the British literary establishment and its disdain for ‘genre’  – but Aldiss also doesn’t approve of genre-only readers.

…”I [the interviewer] quote to him something he wrote in 1990: “Just as the [literary] establishment is philistine about science, the bulk of the science-fiction readership is philistine about literature.” “Ha!” he cries gleefully, “offends both parties.”…


And he has always known the value of the what-ifs and speculative fiction and how vast and fruitful the scifi genre could be. It’s more than just space ships and flights of fancy, new world with new creatures: more a mirror of what could be, or should be, if norms were challenged, or refused.

…”while it [science fiction] may take place in an alternate or future world, it deals with the present.”…

Brian Aldiss’ website is here, with all the information you can wish for, journals extracts, blog, latest publications and snippets of past and new work.

You can also find a detailed list of his work in the ISFDB, here.

What do you think?

Suggestions for reading*:

The Moment of Eclipse – short stories collection, this one from the 70s, but any of his collections, really.

Hothouse – symbiosis! With fungi!

NonStop – familiar seen by primitive eyes…

*it’s been several years since I read his books, so I will have to have a re-read before I can be more specific 🙂

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The Five Elements of a Story Source -… – The Writer’s Circle

Source: The Five Elements of a Story Source -… – The Writer’s Circle

5 story elements

Apart from the fact that I love diagrams, this one is delightfully non-prescriptive and makes you think (as a writer) about all the possibilities and layers you can have in your stories.

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48hr Mental Health Scotland Film Challenge

I wrote a script for the 48hr Film Challenge organised by Mental Health Scotland…and seeing it filmed in the space of 48hr was an amazing experience.

I’ll put up a link from YouTube as soon as the panel makes a decision, but all films will be shown in a ceremony at the end of October 🙂

Still very hectic around here, a few stories submitted, now waiting for results, but more importantly, more writing!

Hope your writing plans are going well, feel free to share!

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Writing Aid: Planning your Novel

Writing is hard work. I would never discourage anyone from writing, but I would tell them: it’s hard. Because you not only have to write – that wonderful act of connecting your brain to your fingers and your fingers to a pen or a keyboard and seeing words appearing on the page or the screen – but you also have to do hundreds of other things. And one of these things, whether it’s for a short story or a novel, it’s planning.

I used to be one of those non-planning writers, and to a certain extent, for short stories I still am. I love that impulse that comes from having a combination of words in your head, and writing them down to see where they take me. It’s a great journey of discovery and few other thrills are like it, for me.

However, planning is important. I dare say, fundamental. And yes, even for a short story, a few notes, a quick trajectory mapping your themes, your character/s’ path, will make your story better, more cohesive, with every word resonating with the others.

Look at this, Catch 22 outline/plan:

Catch 22 plan

You can find more example of writers’ writing plans here in this Flavorwire article: Authors Handwritten Outlines

(and I so want to turn all of those into posters, or even a wall paper!).

Fascinating, isn’t it?

As I said, I used to be a non-planner, but I’ve changed (David Bishop, I’m looking at you). Now I know WHY you should plan your novel.

Planning doesn’t take away any of the joys (jouissance, there, I said it) of writing, on the contrary. And here are the reasons WHY you should outline/plan your novel (novella and/or short story):

  1. because you can see how your ideas pan out BEFORE you’ve written yourself in a corner
  2. because you can make sure all the parts fit in the whole, with the PACING you think it’s right for your story
  3. because you can play with your STRUCTURE before you’ve spent hours, weeks, maybe months writing pages that don’t fit
  4. because you can determine what parts you really NEED in your story
  5. because you can insure each of your characters has a ROLE to play, with its own trajectory, not merely serving the plot
  6. because you can see how the THEMES and IDEAS for the story fit and return and resonate throughout your structure
  7. because once you have a SOLID OUTLINE, then you can write without fear and just enjoy what surprises and adjustments the narrative will bring you

Next time you sit down with an idea in your mind, outline it. Make it yours. Make it a map of your narrative that you can follow and choose your path on, and where you and your characters and ideas will never get lost.

I’d like to know if you plan or outline, and how you do it. I find that paper is still the best way for me, and only after I can put it on a Word document, but there’s also specialized software and post it notes on the wall: what’s your system?

And if you don’t have one, why?


Filed under Fiction, Writing

Too much or too little?

In the spirit of presenting diverse and varied points of view, I’d like to link a New York Times article titled A Short Defense of Literary Excess.

The contemporary preference seems to be for the economical, the efficient, for simple precision (though there is of course such a thing as complex precision). Books, it appears, should be neat and streamlined. Language shouldn’t be allowed to obscure a good story. There is a craving for easily relatable and sympathetic characters. Among critics and reviewers, the plain style is more likely to be praised than the elaborate or sprawling. Embellished prose is treated with suspicion, if not dismissed outright as overwritten, pretentious or self-indulgent. Drab prose is everywhere.

Yes, adjectives and all those ending in -ly should be exterminated…or at least cautiously sprinkled on our pages. Or not? Raymond Carver and Angela Carter: what a meeting! I love Cormac McCarthy’s sparse prose, but equally long for vertiginous sentences to sweep me away with them.

I don’t want to be suffocated, over-told, but neither I want to walk on shard-like words for too long. It’s so subjective, at times, and yet, when it works, scarcity or richness, it doesn’t matter.

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Time for reading: what’s in a short story?

A relatively short time ago, writers were able to support themselves by selling short stories. I don’t know if any writer can still do that, (let me know if you or someone you know do 🙂 but it seems not as feasible anymore.

This article, The State of the Short Story, argues for television and changed habits being part of the influence in the lack of interest in the short story. It also poses longer narratives, such as novels, as occasions for losing oneself in another world/time/character, whereas the short story requires a stringent attention by its readers, and delivers a punch which makes for a less relaxing reading experience.

I’m not arguing with that. I want to point out how happy I am when I travel on the bus and the tube (in the UK) and realize how many fellow travelers are reading: a book, an ebook, doesn’t matter. They’re still reading.

Short stories don’t have the market they could have, not mainstream. But there are plenty of magazines seeking short stories submissions, and plenty of writers skilled in the genre. What I think is missing, and it resonates with my post on Ian McEwan’s preference for the Novella vs. the Novel, is a certain fluidity of the literary/genre market.

The short story is mostly seen, these days, as a trampoline for writers to get noticed, and then move on the more remunerative novel form. Instead, all forms of writing, no matter their word count, should be considered at the same level.

Just because a short story has a smaller word count, doesn’t mean it’s easier to write. Nothing is easy to write, in a way. All forms present their challenges, their flaws, their advantages.

If you’re interested in the short story, you may appreciate Object Lessons, The Paris Review’s collection of short stories and essays on the Art of the Short Story.

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Short Story advice

Short story writing advice by Bolano: irony and wisdom in 12 simple steps, and many stories and writers to add to your To Read list.


Originally published in World Literature Today. Images via Defining Myself Secondhand.

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On Chesil Beach, McEwan and Novellas

At the recent Cheltenham Literary Festival, author Ian McEwan declared his support for the novella against the novel, a work of more or less 25.000 words. You can read a short piece reporting his words in this Telegraph article.

In 2007, McEwan’s On Chesil Beach was nominated for a Booker prize (even if it was quite short and more a novella than a novel, so in theory not eligible).

I’ve read On Chesil Beach. I would have happily thrown it against the wall, but my love for the printed paper didn’t let me. It wasn’t the book’s fault if the story made me want to growl and roar. McEwan’s prose is elegant, fluid, a pleasure. His characters well rounded and interesting. And yet, the story felt more like a treatise on the results of untreated flaws and trauma, with an outcome which was decided from the start.

Perhaps that’s where the writing talent is, in making you hope to the last page that things may be different, and making you believe it’s possible.

In any case, I hated On Chesil Beach with a passion, which I think it’s a very good result. The worst thing that can happen to a book is to leave you indifferent.

However, I completely agree with this statement by McEwan reported in the article mentioned above: brevity is good because

“you can hold the whole thing structurally in your mind at once.”

In an era where writers have to adhere to publishing houses’ requests in terms of word count (80.000 words for a novel, 120.000 for fantasy or sci fi, etc.), where the creative challenges of flashfiction attract more and more authors and where the short story seems to have found a more permanent place, McEwan’s statement points at something different.

The relationship between writer and reader and narrative, where the reader can partake of the narrative’s form as much as its content. Brevity is not just a creative challenge, but a chance for the writer to offer a text the reader can appreciate in its full potential.

Because most readers don’t have much time, to re-read a book several times until all the nuances and subtleties of the story are made clear. Some do, but there’s nothing wrong in considering other forms apart from the novel (in my opinion, not better, just different).

I personally believe in each story needing exactly the word count it needs, whether a novel, a novella, a short story or a drabble. Many classics in diverse genres, including the literary, published a long time ago, didn’t need a word count to find a place on the bookshelves.

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Filed under Authors, Book Festivals, Fiction