Ten Minute Craft Lesson: Story Too Short?
Written by
Tayari Jones
November 2013
Written by
Tayari Jones
November 2013

A student of mine is preparing her applications to an MFA program and she is trying to write a story of about fifteen pages or so.  Her stories tend to be short-- in the eight or ten pages range-- and she is trying to expand.  Expand-- not stretch.  This is about adding more chicken and vegetables to the soup, not just more noodles and broth. Here are some questions I gave her to ask herself about the story. 

  • Where is this story set?  Is the physical landscape clear?  Are there places in the story where the characters have to navigate any unusual terrain? This could be walking on a beach, or down a busy highway? Where are they? What's under their feet? What's over their heads?
  • Where is the story set? What city? When? Is there any history of this town that may affect the way the characters behave?
  • What happened last time?  Have the characters been here before? (By here, I mean the physical place or the emotional space.)  What makes this time different?
  • How's the weather?
  • Employ the five senses.  What does she see, hear, taste, touch, smell?

What do the characters wants? Do they get it? (Use your highlighter to show where you make this clear.  If not, get to revising.)

Ok.  That's a quick lesson. Back to work.

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