Tag Archives: short story

A Naked Alliances Christmas

We’re getting close to Christmas and I thought I would swing by and check on my two leading characters from Naked Alliances, Richard Noggin, P.I. and Brandi, an exotic dancer. When I left them around the end of October, they were dining at Harbor Lights restaurant admiring the yachts moored on Tampa Bay.

Richard’s gay neighbors, Dave and Steve, decorated the palm tree in their front yard. I’d like to point out why palm trees don’t make good Christmas trees down here in Florida.

palm tree-christmas
Are words needed?

~~~

Brandi knocked at the door of the coral pink cottage in Thornton Park, her military-green canvas messenger bag slung over her shoulder. She rested the fir tree against a post. Richard opened the door in his boxers with a beer in his hand. “Oh, it’s you.”

“Who were you expecting? The date who likely stormed out when you undressed?”

“What’s the tree for? I don’t do Christmas.”

“This year you are.” She hugged the tree, pushing her way through the door. “I could use some help with this thing.”

“I’m allergic,” he said.

“And I’m not backing down. You’ve spent a week, since our four week vacation at the Lagoon, shut up in this house feeling sorry for yourself and we’re going to have Christmas.” Propping the tree against the living room window, she pulled back the blinds, went out onto the porch, lifted a cardboard box, and returned to the living room. “This is Christmas stuff I borrowed from the Parliament House.”

“Oh great, bobbles made from boa feathers and glittered, butterfly eyelashes.”

“They’re shiny and sparkly.”

“So are Harley parts.”

“Don’t be such a spoil sport and grab yourself a few.” Standing the tree upright, she forced it into the stand she had brought with her.

Richard slugged back his last swallow of Miller Lite, set his can on the coffee table and reached into the box, pulling out a wrapped gift with his name on it. “Awww, you shouldn’t have done this.”

“You can open it now or put it under the tree.”

“I haven’t gotten a Christmas present in years.”

“It’s nothing, really, just a little something to lighten your mood.”

Richard tore into the paper, opened the box and grinned ear to ear. Snapping open the case, tears welled in his eyes. Trying not to blink, he reached into the case. “A golden Desert Eagle, 50 caliber, hand cannon, and she’s a pretty girl. This is too much.”

“I thought you might need a replacement for Desiree, since you had to feed her to the alligators. Do you really think that was necessary?”

“More than necessary.” Grabbing her around the neck, he pulled her close and kissed her cheek. “I did a bit of Christmas shopping for you, too.” He opened the coat closet door and pulled out a monstrous-sized bag from the Millennial Mall. “Haven’t had time to wrap it though.”

“You didn’t!”

“I did. I have to confess I didn’t know my way around the store, but I asked for the best.”

Brandi snatched the bag, looked inside and screamed. “It’s a leather, large-frame Prada tote. I’ve never owned a real purse before. It’s beautiful. For a guy who doesn’t do Christmas, you did it quite well.” She slung the bag onto her shoulder, pulled the purse close and sniffed it.

“It was the biggest they had and the lady tells me they’re quite fashionable. I know how you like to have all your necessaries with you, and they do come in handy.”

Brandi grabbed him around the neck and squeezed. He winced, but hugged her back as best he could.

“You’re the best boss ever!”

“Partner, the best partner.”

Short Stories versus Novels

I like to consider myself a novelist. That’s what I do. I may have only published one, but that’s what my writing is geared for, writing novels.

I have been trying my hand at writing short stories for my writers’ group, mostly with prompts. I’ve posted a couple of those here on the blog, but I can’t really say I’m proud of them. I’ve been to some open mic events; both locally and out of town and the short stories I have heard a strong finish or a bite to them, a humorous sideline or some deeply thought-provoking revelation amongst the words.

I’ve also read a few anthologies of short stories and most are 2000-3000 words, succinct, concise words.

I can’t do it in less than 5000 words.

I have a short attention span and I like lots of fast action. I write like that also, a whirlwind of events, one on the heels of another.

There are some really great blogs that feature lots of short stories. Kate Loveton has short stories on her blog and does very well at humor and at making relevant points with her work in few words. Helen Midgely writes some of the best short fiction I’ve ever read. I keep encouraging them to write novels. Mark Paxon writes good introspective and meaningful short stories. They always leave me wanting to read more.

That’s what a short story should do.

I researched writing short stories and found the article by Yale University:  http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1983/3/83.03.09.x.html

It struck me as a bit too complicated.

So I looked deeper.

I found this list of the five elements of a short story:

They are true masters at combining the five key elements that go into every great short story: charactersetting, conflictplot and theme.

http://users.aber.ac.uk/jpm/ellsa/ellsa_elements.html

You could say novels are just expanded short stories as the ingredients are much the same, but are they?

My short stories are like little bitty novels.

I found this list of novel features:

  1. Concept – the central idea or proposition from which you create a landscape upon which to tell the story; weak premise, weak story…
  2. Character – checklist-driven criteria for developing backstory, arc, inner conflict and the essence of a hero’s quest…
  3. Theme – the elusive meaning of your story and how it affects readers on multiple levels; in other words, why they’ll care…
  4. Story architecture – a four-part story structure riddled with segments missions, milestones and standards that keep the story growing and moving…
  5. Scene execution – if you can’t boil water you can’t cook up a buffet; this is the crafting of efficient, tense, visceral scenes and narrative…
  6. Writing voice – the assemblage of words you summon as foot soldiers with the mission of carrying your structural strategy to victory.

It would seem that novels are more complex, but that’s not really true. I’m finding writing a short story is harder simply because you are trying to accomplish the same things in fewer words. Maybe I’m overthinking this.

When I approach writing, I tend to do it more by this list of six; except for this statement “if you can’t boil water you can’t cook up a buffet.”

I’m always cooking the buffet.

I feel it requires masterful writing and creativity to pull off a great short story. I applaud people who do it well.

It’s really a whole different style.

I approach writing the same way for short stories and novels. I’ve discovered that my story arc is the same for short stories as it is for novels. You know…you’ve seen this before.

story-arc-1

When it should probably look more like this:

Slide2

 

So, what do you think?

Is writing short stories different for you than writing novels?

Is it easier or more challenging to write the short story?

I’m finding the short story a greater challenge. I think my lilting use of language and verbosity are parts of what present me problems.

Any advice?

Uncle Charlie Trashcan

homeless_old_man_sketch_by_nwilcox_artistry-d51j80b

Sketch by N. Wilcox at deviantart

The lines on this face drawn by an artist’s hand, forged by a subject’s soul

Tell the stories of a man once young grown old

Homeless, not knowing from where he came nor where he is going to land

Living his life according to no one’s plans

There was an old man in my childhood whom I will never forget.  My mother helped me to remember.  She wrote a story about him that got published in the LaGrange Daily News.  He became rather famous whether he wanted to be or not.

This old man lived in The Heart of LaGrange Hotel that sat in the middle of the “Y” intersection where Hines Street met Hill Street just up the road from where we lived.  He was not totally homeless, but he might as well have been.  I was no more than about five or six years old.  My older sister and I would see him coming up the sidewalk pulling his little red wagon.

coke-bottle_chronology1When we saw him, we knew it was time to run in the house and gather all of the glass soda bottles.  Back then they were worth 10 cents apiece.  A few dollars could easily be made off of generous children.  The store on the other end of the street collected them for recycling with more soda.  We could have exchanged them or sold them ourselves, but Mama had a purpose.

She died when I was eight years old and there are so many things about her character, like the character in the man’s face in the sketch above, that I will always remember.  His lines came from years of sorrow and joy.  Her altruistic compassions came from a giving heart.   She intuitively knew that we had nothing to fear from this old man.

He would come by in the morning to collect the bottles that we readily shared, and come back in the evening with a handful of pecans that he had collected along his way to share with us.  He told us outlandish stories as we sat on the roots of the ancient oak by the street.  We listened with eager ears.

I asked him one day what his name was and he told me, “People call me Uncle Charlie Trashcan.”

“What is your real name?” I wanted to know.

“I don’t know.  My father wrote it down on a corn shuck and the cow ate it before I learned to read,” came his reply.

One day some preteens and teenagers jumped him and beat him up.  They left him in the bushes for dead.  His lunch box was smashed.  His wagon was stolen.  My mother found him on a walk.  She brought him in the house and cleaned him up.  He had a bath while she washed his tattered clothes and she bandaged his wounds.  He told us stories while his clothes dried.  She fed him dinner at the table with us.   She packed him a lunch for the next day in a shiny new metal lunchbox with a coffee thermos.  He seemed so very proud when he waved his good-byes that evening.images (4)

Mama’s article in the paper produced a new wagon and he got some much needed social services and quite a bit of fame.  That did not stop him from pulling his red wagon up the sidewalk to gather soda bottles, or from bringing us handfuls of pecans in the evening.  It did not stop the storytelling or the smiles that made more lines on his face.