Writing Short Stories with Catherine Czerkawska

Catherine Czerkawska 11 03 15 2

March 11th 2015
Taking a break from working on her book about Jean Armour, we were fortunate to have this successful writer of novels and short stories lead us in a workshop. Members took notes at an amazing speed as Catherine bombarded us with advice.
It was encouraging to learn that short stories were increasing in popularity due in part to the ease of reading one on an E-reader. Publishing an anthology of the genre, either by yourself or with a group, is less daunting than tackling a full length novel. Magazines and radio programmes often welcome stories of between two and three thousand words. Short stories are successful in a variety of themes, romance, horror, mystery, literary, crime, or science fiction. Twist in the tale stories made popular by Roald Dahl are now less appreciated.
But and this is important, to be successful, the writer must pitch a story at the appropriate market.
How do you start a story? A person, a location, an event, or an observation, all seeds with the possibility of growing into a short story.
We all know of the why, when, where, what and why but other factors must be included in preparation. The reader may not need to know everything about a character but it is important that the writer has that character clearly in mind including age, looks, speech, attitude and history. It is also advisable to visualize location, real or imaginary, and even time of day of the event on which the story hinges. Something has to happen that is central to the story which has an effect on the main protagonist.
In groups of two or three we were given pictures and objects to trigger an idea. What a variety of tales was created; the buzz of discussion and ideas testament to the industry and enthusiasm involved. As instructed, each group created a main character, summarized events that were either amusing, horrific, romantic or revealing, sometimes all of the above.
This was a lively and informative workshop and as someone who does not write fiction I feel inspired to give it a go. What fun creating people over whom you have complete control and can do with as you will. As is common in club workshops there was a cocktail of serious comment spiced with a great deal of humour.
But to write short stories successfully, Catherine stressed, you must study the greats, William Trevor, Bernard MacLaverty (another former speaker at AWC) M R James, Katherine Mansfield, or H. Lovecraft for example.
An inspiring workshop indeed!

Sheila A. Grant

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