Tag: counterpoint structures

Flash fiction story: “Thinking of Dazai”

“Thinking of Dazai,” by Canovaccio

Appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, January 22nd, 2018

970 words, including the epigraph

An intriguing piece. “[S]ometimes people just can’t do the right thing.” If the last line means what I think it does, Helena has gotten herself stuck in a pattern of mistakes and violence.


Flash fiction story: “Reflected Across the Dark”

“Reflected Across the Dark,” by Laurel Amberdine

Appeared in Arsenika, issue 1, Spring 2017; online here

861 words

This is cool. I would have liked to see a longer version with a deeper look at the twins’ relationship, but the piece works well as it is.

Short story: “What It Is to Preserve”

“What It Is to Preserve,” by Amber Taliancich Allen

Appeared in Ninth Letter, Winter 2017; online here

2726 words

This is a pretty cool form for a story.

Short story: “Whimper”

“Whimper,” by Joanna Scott

Appeared in Black Clock, issue 21, spring/summer 2016

9.5 pages, maybe 5k words?

This is beautifully painful, and I didn’t see the twist coming till it was upon me.

Actually good writing advice, maybe?

Some advice from Chuck Wendig (found via everythingissymbolic):

“A simple formula for writing: take the story from high intensity (action, argument, manifest tension, drama) to low intensity (dialogue, simmering tension, concerted character development). Nothing should be without tension, and conflict should carry throughout. A film like Die Hard does this well—period of calm, then period of action. Calm, action, calm, action. You can play with the timing and the length of these sections, too. Requiem for a Dream does slow, fast, slow, fast, too. But as it goes on, the slower periods begin to winnow. The sharp, fast, nasty patches get sharper, faster, nastier.”

This sounds neat, and I want to try it.

“Cut the first chapter of your story. Cut the first paragraph of a chapter. Cut the first sentence of a paragraph. Be on a quest to tighten. Assume your job is to tell as little story as possible to get the point across. How little can you tell, how late can you enter, to still ensure that people a) understand what’s going on b) feel something about it c) think about it after they’re done?”

I tend to do this—cut out as much as I can, right from the start—but b) and c) are way trickier than they sound.

“Assure that you have STORY NOODLIN’ TIME. Every day. In the shower. On the lawnmower. While gutting your enemies and tanning their flesh for your leathery manskin bedsheets. Find time every day to just think about the story you’re telling.”

More evidence for the value of daydreaming.

Short story: “Chicxulub”

“Chicxulub,” by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Appeared in the New Yorker, March 1st, 2004 (online here); featured in the September 2015 episode of the New Yorker Fiction Podcast

4,463 words (my guess was 4,000)

This story reminds me of “Bullet in the Brain,” although it is more linear, and “Forever Overhead,” although it uses a different technique. I find it pretty impressive. Lionel Shriver reads it well—sort of coldly. To read it with too much emotion would kill it.

Shriver and Deborah Treisman talk about the strangeness of writing an experience you haven’t had, and seeing it move someone who has. Shriver takes it rather lightly. But how much of a compliment is it, really, if a stranger sobs over your story? Couldn’t it also be a condemnation? How much of other people’s pain belongs to the writer, and how much does not?

Short story: “The Deep of Winter”

“The Deep of Winter,” by Chris Butler

Appeared in Interzone issue 259, July–August 2015

About 12 pages, unknown word count

Very interesting story, but some plot elements never get adequately explained, like Aluna’s powerful spores and Sebastián’s reaction.

The alternating narrators work well, and they’re clearly demarcated, so they never get confusing. I like how Interzone‘s layout makes the section headers look elegant and deliberate; another magazine might have made them look clumsy.

Short story: “Views of My Father Weeping”

“Views of My Father Weeping,” by Donald Barthelme

Appeared in the New Yorker on December 6th, 1969 (subscribers can read here); readable online via public library membership here; collected in Sixty Stories

About eleven pages in this copy of Sixty Stories, which makes it about 4,019 words

I don’t really have anything original to say about this one. I just like it and want it on my blog.

I also like Michael Zeitlin’s essay on Barthelme and need to quote it.

I remember once we were out on the ranch shooting peccadillos (result of a meeting, on the plains of the West, of the collared peccary and the nine-banded armadillo). My father shot and missed. He wept. This weeping resembles that weeping.

[… C]learly, in the context of the story [the wordplay here] is a kind of diversionary tactic (“see how playful, clever, and postmodern I’m being”) transferring our attention away from the underlying parricidal theme which one may infer from the undisguised “content” of the passage, that is, the father’s humiliation. The meaning of that humiliation comes closer to “the real story,” one which is “beneath the surface” only in the sense that its thematic, ideational, and symbolic complexities are precisely what the conspicuous play on “peccadillo” attempts to divert our attention away from. […] In fact, this might be identified as a cardinal principle of [Barthelme’s] art, or at least precisely its point: the shifting of attention away from “central concerns” is a gambit, a ruse, and a deflection[….]

Short story: “How to Raise a Human”

“How to Raise a Human,” by Deb Taber

Appeared in volume 1, issue 7 of Apex in fall 2006, back when it was Apex Digest; available on the author’s website

3,172 words

Cruelly funny, but slight. We know more or less where the character is headed, so we’re not inclined to get too attached to her.

Short story: “All That Fairy Tale Crap”

“All That Fairy Tale Crap,” by Rachel Swirsky

First appeared in the anthology Glitter & Mayhem (buy here); reprinted here in issue 55 of Apex Magazine, December 2013

4,199 words

This is just irritating. I mean, I love metafiction, okay? I sort of like the main character of this piece (Cinderella, only not). I like things like this:

You start out with three tools. You’re pretty. You have small feet. And you can do housework.

Now become a princess.

Go on. Laugh. Shatter glass class ceilings? Yeah, right.

But the story just goes on and on, alternating between semi-pointless scenes and self-conscious prattling. The narrator addresses the reader directly way too much.

I do like the last line, and the ending generally. I wish somebody had edited this down.