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The Writing of the Short Story   By: (1866-1947)

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First Page:

THE WRITING OF THE SHORT STORY

BY

LEWIS WORTHINGTON SMITH, A.M.

DRAKE UNIVERSITY, DES MOINES, IOWA

D. C. HEATH & CO., PUBLISHERS BOSTON NEW YORK CHICAGO

COPYRIGHT, 1902, BY D. C. HEATH & CO.

IT IS A PLEASURE TO BE PERMITTED TO ASSOCIATE WITH THIS LITTLE BOOK THE NAME OF MY FRIEND PROFESSOR L. A. SHERMAN OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA.

SUGGESTIONS FOR TEACHERS

In the author's classes the three stories in the volume entitled "Three Hundred Dollars" are first studied because of their simplicity, and these are followed by parts of "The Bonnie Brier Bush," and then by the stories from Bret Harte. Mrs. Phelps Ward's "Loveliness" is especially valuable for illustrating methods and devices for making a simple theme dramatically interesting. Students are required to mark stories with the symbols and discuss them with reference to the principles of which this little book is an exposition, but no recitation on the book itself is required. Perhaps one third of the time in the class room is spent in discussion of the short themes written by the class, and when convenient these are placed on the board before the class for that purpose. In the theme work following the suggested subjects the effort is made to confine instruction and practice to one thing at a time, but at the conclusion of the work of the term each member of the class is required to hand in a complete original story.

THE WRITING OF THE SHORT STORY

NARRATIVE FORMS

=1. Elements of the Story.= This little volume is meant to be a discussion of but one of the various forms that literature takes, and it will be first in order to see what are the elements that go to the making of a narrative having literary quality. A story may be true or false, but we shall here be concerned primarily with fiction, and with fiction of no great length. In writing of this sort the first essential is that something shall happen; a story without a succession of incidents of some kind is inconceivable. We may then settle upon incident as a first element. As a mere matter of possibility a story may be written without any interest other than that of incident, but a story dealing with men will not have much interest for thoughtful readers unless it also includes some showing of character . Further, as the lives of all men and women are more or less conditioned by their surroundings and circumstance, any story will require more or less description . Incidents are of but little moment, character showing may have but slight interest, description is purposeless, unless the happenings of the story develop in the characters feelings toward which we assume some attitude of sympathy or opposition. Including this fourth element of the story, we shall then have incident , description , character , mood , as the first elements of the narrative form.

=2. A Succession of Incidents Required.= A series of unconnected happenings may be interesting merely from the unexpectedness or the hurry and movement of the events, but ordinarily a story gains greatly in its appeal to the reader through having its separate incidents developed in some sort of organic unity. The handling of incidents for a definite effect gives what we call plot. A plot should work steadily forward to the end or dénouement, and should yet conceal that end in order that interest may be maintained to the close. Evidently a writer who from the first has in mind the outcome of his story will subordinate the separate incidents to that main purpose and so in that controlling motive give unity to the whole plot. Further, the interest in the plot will be put on a higher plane, if in the transition from incident to incident there is seen, not chance simply, but some relation of cause and effect. When the unfolding of the plot is thus orderly in its development, the reader feels his kindling interest going forward to the outcome with a keener relish because of the quickening of thought, as well as of emotion, in piecing together the details that arouse a glow of satisfaction... Continue reading book >>




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