Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writing Short Stories--Interview with Author Leslie S. Rose


Friends, today I'm excited to have my friend and writing partner, Leslie S. Rose, share her wisdom about writing and publishing short stories. Her tale "The Shimmer in the Woods" recently published in Paramourtal, Volume 2 from Cliffhanger Books.


The Shimmer in the Woods by Leslie S. Rose
Out to avenge his sister Gretel's death, a grown Hansel encounters a luminous female spirit. She offers to help him vanquish the witch, but she demands a terrible price in return.


1. Where did you get the idea for "Shimmer in the Woods?" Please tell us the journey from idea to final draft.

Thank you so much, Julie for giving me the opportunity to chat with you and your wonderful followers. *waves*

My favorite assignment in playwriting class back at UCLA was to turn a fairy tale into a one-act play. That fond memory coupled with my obsession for fairy tale retells and a ridiculous sweet tooth, lead me back to Hansel and Gretel. *hands out sugary roof shingles* 

We all know childhood trauma colors the rest of your life. I played the “what if” game and wondered how screwed up Hansel would be if he’d escaped the witch, but Gretel hadn’t. SPOILER ALERT – I killed Gretel.

The Shimmer creature was born from my days as a lighting designer. I always loved playing and painting with light. I just took its energy and power one step further and added personality.

As for the process, my first draft was drastically over the word count limit set in the submission guidelines. I took a deep breath and sharpened my editing knife. Two revisions and a flurry of slashes later, I met the limit – to the word. The story went out to my solid gold critique partners. *take a bow, Julie and Lisa* More slashing and haggling down to individual word choice ensued. I was at the San Diego State Writer’s Conference when I got the happy news from Cliffhanger Books that “Shimmer” had been accepted into the Paramourtal 2 Anthology. We danced through two more drafts together until “Shimmer” was ready to rock and roll. 

Who knew during the road to pubbing there would be a slew of Hansel and Gretel revisits popping up. The series ONCE UPON A TIME brought the bro and sis back, as did the film HANSEL AND GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS. I was trending and didn’t even know it.

2. How has writing short stories strengthened your novel writing skills?

I went to a seminar on short story writing where an author on the panel characterized the form as a one-act tragedy. So true. You have to smush story arcs, world building, characters, plot, and conflict into a very tight package. It’s essential to grab your audience in the blink of an eye and send your character on a complete journey while a very loud clock is ticking next to your ear. 

Working in the shorter format sharpened all the story aspects in my novels. It forced me to define each element with heightened clarity in my planning phases. In fact, writing short stories morphed me from a pantser to a plotter. I had a tendency to meander in my storytelling and there’s no room for that in a short story. My latest long-form writing has a crisper dynamic that developed from the challenge of writing short stories.

3. When I read your work, your design background shines through in scene details and mood. What can writers do to improve that part of storytelling?

Ah, thanks for the kind words. The task of visualizing a world/setting is my happy place. I need to know what sensory rich – visceral environment exists before I plop the characters into it. 

That harkens back to my theatrical design process. Create the scenery and lighting that allows the actors to enter the world of the play. It’s also a wonderful way to monkey with subtext and imagery.

My advice would be to create a concrete visualization board. You can collage in the abstract or represent specific scenes or transitions.

Sketch or paint if you have those in your bag of talents. Collect or create pictures representing:
  • Scenery/Setting - physical reality of environment – geography/climate
  • Characters – who would play them in the movie
  • Textures
    • Character clothing
    • Architectural treatments
    • Natural world
  • Aromas/Odors
  • Colors – evoking mood from your reader (I’ve been known to raid the paint chips at Home Depot to create a color palette that maps scenes or overall arc progressions. Light to dark/warm to cool/contrast vs. harmony)
  • Facial expressions
  • Thematic images/symbols
It’s a rush when your imagination springboards off the concrete visuals you lay out. 

Try making a PowerPoint or iMovie, coupling images with music that expresses the mood of a particular scene or punctuates a dramatic moment. Liken it to storyboarding or the pre-viz phase of movie production - a book trailer for your pre-writing phase.

4. What advice can you give us for writing and publishing short stories?

As far as publishing goes…
Be a cyber hunter or huntress to ferret out opportunities. Hit Bloglandia (my term of endearment for the world of writing and publishing blogs), search short story anthologies on Amazon then research the publishers, and network with other writers for recommendations.

As far as writing goes…
Run, don’t walk to the book Ron Carlson Writes a Story. He takes you through his process of writing a short story. Brilliant teaching.

My humble advice would be to think of your entire story as a climax scene. Hit your reader with quick stakes, quick character investment, and then drop a bomb on their world.

And don’t be afraid to kill Gretel.

Isn't she awesome?

Leslie, thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us! Folks, Leslie is giving away a print copy of her anthology to one lucky commenter (U.S. residents only). Leaving a comment automatically enters you in the drawing!

44 comments:

  1. Wow. What excellent advice, and killing Gretel? Eek! That's courage for you. I'm totally the same way--with visual collages. Google images is almost constantly up to help me channel just the right essence for a scene. Thanks for your words, Leslie.

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    1. Remember the days when we used to destroy our parents' magazines to collage? Google images rocks. Thanks for the kind words, Crystal.

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    2. Crystal, thank YOU for stopping by!

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  2. Go Leslie! And can I just say her stories are great!!!!!

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    1. Gawrsh, Martina, thanks so much.

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    2. Martina, I totally agree. Her images and voice??? Awesome.

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  3. I can't say enough about Leslie. She's coated in awesome sauce. (you should really do something about that). I LOVE the story and the advice. I might even take it myself!!!

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    1. xo Lisa. BTW awesome sauce is spf 2000. That's why I wear it. A little itchy...

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    2. Awesome sauce is spf 2000? Does that mean it's not edible?

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  4. Great interview. Thanks to Leslie for the advice.

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    1. Thanks right back to you, Beth.

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    2. Beth! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  5. Julie, you are connected with the coolest people. I LOVED all of Leslie's words. And I can't wait to read her work!

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    1. Thanks so much, Morgan. I think my post was longer than my short story. Thank goodness Julie isn't word counting.

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    2. Morgan, one of those cool people is YOU!! Thanks so much for stopping by. Leslie's words are definitely a treat.

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  6. It's been years since I wrote a short story. Wicked twist on yours, Leslie. Congratulations on the anthology!

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    1. I think Wicked Twist will be my new band name, Alex. BTW - LOVE your blog even though I don't comment much. EVERYONE - go over to Alex's blog.

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    2. Alex, I've never even written a short story! It's cool that you've done it.

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  7. Hey Julie - You da bomb for hosting me. I'm so tickled I'll give away 2 print copies of Paramourtal 2. Whoo hoo! (See what I did there - 2 rhymes with whoo hoo.)

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    1. Did you say two moo moo's? Hoo hoo's?

      You're welcome on this blog ANY time!

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  8. Wow. This post is packed with so much amazing and helpful advice! Thank you, Leslie, and Julie for hosting!

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  9. Great advice, Leslie. I guess with short stories you develop the skill of writing tight, or else you go over the word count.

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    1. Okay, new band name - Writing Tight. Thanks, Stina.

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  10. Short story writing is such a challenge and you're right it hones your writing in general. Great post.

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    1. It's certainly made me more accountable. Thanks, Lee.

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  11. Don't be afraid to kill Gretel - that might be my favourite piece of advice ever!!! Love it :)

    I also love the concrete visualization part. I'm not great at describing 'stuff' - I'll try some of those tips! Thanks ladies :)

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    1. My challenge is to morph my mental visualizations into the right amount of description - enough to ground, but not too much to bore.

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  12. I especially like the idea of creating a concrete visualization board. Describing the setting has always been difficult for me, because I often focus more on dialogue and the characters' thoughts instead, so it's like they're talking/thinking in empty rooms. So I think that creating a collage would help me. Thanks for the advice!

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    1. It's amazing what golden nuggets you discover about your story when you do the board.

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  13. Writing "short stories" is something I aspire to do, I just don't know if I'm meant to. Book length seems to work better for me. I definitely want to try my hand at them again though. Great interview!!

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    1. Thanks for popping by. I double dog dare you to try your hand at a short story.

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  14. Congrats to Leslie! I really want to read your short story. Sounds amazing, even if you do kill Gretel.

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    1. Thanks, Emily. Gretel will probably haunt me.

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  15. Leslie, you are amazing!
    Maybe you need to start a weekly/monthly "concrete visualization board series" on your blog. It sounds like a great technique.
    Writer In Transit

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  16. Guys, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with Leslie!

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  17. Short stories and novels are different beasts, imho, at least when it comes to literary fiction. But writing short stories, and getting them published does help with building confidence as a writer, as well as with basic writing techniques.

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  18. I really want to read this! I'm sorry Gretel died but I think it makes for fascinating story and I love the idea of one-act fairy tale retellings! Neat that you mentioned playing with lighting, too, something immediately sprang up in me: hmm, I could totally get into stage lighting in my next career :)

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    1. Light really is magical. Go for it, Margo.

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  19. I love the twist you do with Hansel and Gretel. Thanks for the giveaway.

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    1. I'm all about the twisting, Victoria. Thanks for stopping by.

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