research

8. Writing RED SHOES and Other Short Stories

Welcome to my blog on writing RED SHOES and Other Short Stories.

When I was studying for my MA in Creative Writing I wrote a lot of short stories.
It’s a different skill writing a short story than it is for a novel. It’s a snapshot of an event which doesn’t allow you to develop a plot over time. Even now I like to write a short story and sometimes they lead to bigger things.

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Stephen King says that his novel (and film) MISERY was originally a short story – so I’m not the only one to feel like this.

You write and see where it’s going – where the plot leads or where the characters take you, and that’s one of the exciting things as a writer – you never know how it’s going to end up.

After I wrote the first short story RED SHOES many readers asked me to write more, so I wrote part two. I decided to explore and write about SEX. Something I felt uncomfortable writing knowing my family and friends would read my work.

There’s an art to writing sex scenes and it’s easy to get it wrong: between tantalising and erotic, to laughable and bland.

So, to take me out of my comfort zone I’d read about online sex sites where (mostly) men go to chat to women. Surprisingly, they don’t always look for porn. Incredibly, sometimes all they want is advice about clothes or makeup, or they just want to chat to an understanding female – someone who pays them attention and will listen to them. I hope these example are reflected in the first story.

I tried to write about this theme without being overly graphic.

The second point is, do you ever really know your neighbour? You might never know what they do or what interests them or how they have to make a living. And even if you do know them well, behind closed doors we are all enigmas; people come and go, they appear respectable and they have kids or a mortgage but who are they really?
Do you even know your own family?

When I asked myself these questions, it enabled me to write the second part of RED SHOES. Like Stephen King’s MISERY, my characters developed and I wanted to know what happened to them and many readers have asked me to write even more about Jo, Harry and Mr Rogers. They’ve asked me to turn the short stories into a novel which I may do, one day.

Thirdly, writing RED SHOES was an exercise for me to research information and to write my narrative around the facts I found. I used small details even down to the cracked computer that Jo uses when she starts up her new business from home.

My intention to raise the moral issue of having a young child in the house while Jo is talking to strangers about sex is highlighted with the threat of her being discovered. It’s a moral issue and an emotional conflict that Jo must justify to herself and also the reader.

Conflict and tension are two main ingredients for any story – short or long – add a dash of morality, risk and what the protagonist stands to lose to keep the reader turning the pages.
REMEMBER: You don’t have to be a prostitute to write about prostitution any more than you need to commit a murder to write crime. Use your experience and research widely to practice a short story that may one day grow into a novel.

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Next Blog Post: Writing about Conflict and Character.

LINKS:
Susan Mallory on Writing Sex Scenes

The Worst Sex Writing of the Year

Stephen King’s: The Craft of Short Story Writing

Stephen King’s trailer for Misery

Janet Pywell

 

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