“I See Monsters” DONE! (Phew.) Again, thank you for all the comments, people! Now, we have TAKE TWO with author Anjuelle Floyd. She’s here to tell us more about the art of the short story. Her essays have inspired me, so I hope they’re useful to you, as well. Take it away, Ms. Floyd…
Transcendence and the Short Story
by Anjuelle Floyd
The Irish poet, James Joyce, who then became a fiction writer, coined the phrase epiphany with regards to the literary form of the short story. Epiphany derives from the Greek words epi, which means ‘to’ and phaineim that means ‘show.’ Thus epiphany means to show, which is what Joyce did at the end of his short stories in the way of displaying a revelation that the protagonist or main character of the brief drama undergoes.
This epiphany, while rooted in a shift of views of attitudes regarding an incident in the life of the character, is usually set into motion by an experience common to her or his daily life. The events of the short story in altering a protagonist’s perspective thus reveal her or his soul.
This lifting up and highlighting the best of what we, as humans, have to offer—our strength in yielding to life’s bends and turns, in spite of our deepest yearnings and desires—unveils the hope of mankind. Here again, we encounter the brilliance and challenge in crafting the short story. How to reveal soul in the midst of the mundane atrocities and eccentric beauties of life.
And to do it in less words than required by a novel.
It is helpful to introduce a symbol at the outset of the story, a physical object that travels with the protagonist and serves as a familiar for the major character and her or his soul. This object undergoes the catharsis along with the protagonist, and also mirrors the transformation of perspective the protagonist achieves at the close of the drama.
As with the first sentence a client speaks in their initial session of psychotherapy, so goes the opening line of a short story. It tells the beginning and the ending of the story while also providing the moral tying each to the other.
Character evolution occurs at warp speed in the short story as compared to that of the novel. Likewise, the short story depicts one aspect of the spiritual battle fought on the elaborate physical plane of life. The close introspection of life both internal and external do not allow for subplots or more than one major character. The writer, in revising and honing the short story, purges all that is unnecessary in the dive to the ocean’s floor of the protagonist’s soul.
Each sentence is of most importance in the search of that pearl of greatest delight, that personality trait or human flaw causing the problem and that also holds the key to liberation. Writing short stories tries the writer’s way and method of fashioning words into sentences. Every word must display purpose, otherwise be sacrificed. Striving for brevity of words the writer achieves single-mindedness in thought and action. Not unlike the bodhisattva warrior, the writer aims the arrow of our pen and words towards not simply the soul of our protagonist, but in the revelation of what we hope and strive to attain each time we open our soul to craft a story.
Writing short stories forces us to clarify why we write, and what our souls are trying to convey each time we write. Crafting short stories, we cannot help but improve our skill and artistry at creating fiction, while also increasing our love and compassion for self and mankind.
BIO: Anjuelle Floyd is author of Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident, a collection of interconnected short stories, and a novel, The House, due for publication in Fall 2009. Read Anjuelle’s blog at: http://anjuellefloyd.com. Download her weekly radio show, Book Talk, Creativity and Family Matters: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/anjuellefloyd.