Today’s session goal is to write a short story that is centered on a theme of your choice and has an unexpected, mysterious or just plain O’Henry ending.
The takeaway would be a story, about common people, found in everyday situations that uses their vernacular, their costumes and their lands but the writer’s imagination and voice.
What will you concentrate on?
The Voice: Write as people speak, even if not grammatically correct and could have slangs. Peasants, cab drivers, gangsters, waiters, cops – use the dialect of the town/place they are from and the occupation they are in.
The Theme: Have a single clear theme. It could be deception, mistaken identity, coincidence, fate, irony, suspense, love or something else.
A Believable Plot: The characters are very real in very possible situations, like the couple in the “Gift of the magi” – poor yet deeply in love, wanting to give each other a surprise gift.
The Setting: It could be a city with its glowing lights and night life, a poor artist’s community dwelling, a dark alleyway with flickering streetlights, a shabby motel room, an antiques shop
Literary Con: Make the readers believe they know what’s going to happen next. Set up evidence and lead them where you want and then poof! Twist the end. “After twenty years” – the cop turns out to be the friend the thief was supposed to meet
Have a clear narrative, consistent style and technique. Also, a dash of humor might help you please the reader – so go ahead and add it.
Exercise 1: Tweet a story in 126 or less characters around any one of these words (Source: Terribly Tiny Tales workshop)
Time: 15 mins
Exit, Needle, Heart, Grow, Butterfly, Kiss, Story, Staple, Yes, Hum, Fail, Fear
Exercise 2: Write a short story in about 1500 words or less that has an unexpected ending and no more than four characters. Remember, this story will go in a high-school English text-book (So mind the language and visuals). Try and be sentimental. Create memorable characters and scenes. Go on, tell us a story.
Time: 40 mins
Prompts are all titles of O’Henry stories. Try and pick a title you haven’t read and weave a story that does justice to it. And yes, don’t forget the ending. Surprise us!
- The gift of the Magi
- After twenty years
- The last leaf
- The third ingredient
- The duplicity of Hargraves
- The head hunter
- The skylight room
- The clarion call
- The romance of a busy broker
- Cabbages and kings
- A cosmopolite in a café
- Holding up a train
- The hypotheses of failure
- Springtime a la carte
- While the auto waits
Be spontaneous, be impulsive, be a romanticist for the next two hours ☺
References: Most material is from websites like:
“Write what you like; There is no other rule”
“Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating”
“The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate”