Modern narration sometimes seems quite far removed from the older types of
stories. The generally conceded "best modern writers" have forgotten melodrama and the
wild west, and the decidedly romantic type of story. The most successful modern storys
are decidedly lacking in much action; they are more subtle. Often these hardly seem to be a
plot, for our latest storys are wound around the interplay of character and its effect upon
other people and conditions.
Our modern writing should not be filled with rare unusual words which detract
from the theme of the story -- that is betrayed art which actually is not "art". This does not
mean, however, that words should not be carefully chosen -- they most decidedly should.
Especially should the verbs be very concrete and specific. Since there is little violent
action, what action that is present should be portrayed as vividly as possible. Such general
verbs as "go", "said", "move" should be used only very seldom. Since the work is to be
realistic; and since it is to be vivid, comparisons should not be introduced by "looked like",
"seemed as" but as the one thing actually was the other
People today like to think they are intelligent so any author who, in his story
succeeds in making the reader think he has figured the whole story out by himself will,
other things being equal, succeed. This means use of a great deal of inferred method.
Modern people like things to be short and snappy. They don't and wont read long
descriptions, or characters. They demand that it be boiled down. Just a few lines -- a few
high spots in a character need be given and if given adroitly, the intelligent reader (and
every reader is intelligent to himself) can in a moment get from his own imagination and
experience a complete picture of the character. It is the same way with some scenery and
with certain actions. Also, because of that, the story will seem more real because
characters etc. that seem real to the author would not seem real to a reader.
The stories should be written mainly in the dramatic method. A reader doesn't
want to stand in Iowa and have the author tell him about an incident in New York. The
reader wants to feel that he is a sort of invisible spectator and participant of the incident --
that he is right there in New York. This is accomplished by the dramatic method. The
story should seem to be in the present tense and conversation should be direct. Indirect
discourse is frowned upon in modern stories.
Every thing should be probable under the circumstances. If the situation itself is
one that seems a little unreal and improbable when viewed as a unit, the reader must be
prepared by the author to accept it as real and possible under the given circumstances and
conditions of the story. This is decidedly a place in which real art is required. If this
condition is met; if the author can develop the story so the reader will accept his unusual
incidents -- if he can do this, then I have a feeling that the most extradorny incidents and
the oddest stories, yes the most romantic plots may be written and still called realistic. I
may be wrong on this -- it is an idea that has just presented itself as I was writing this.
Maybe further thought will shoot it full of fallacies -- but its a keen idea never-the-less.
In refering back to the fact that the reading public demands something short and
snappy: A story should start as far into the incident as possible yet give the reader all the
essential material he must have. Then the story must stop as soon after the climax as can
conveniently be done and yet satisfy the reader.
One thing yet may be said in honor of the modern short story. Many -- many of
them do have -- hidden in the background -- one central idea. They are idea storys yet, oh!
how carefully it is hidden. More power to that fact!!
English II 11
April 18, 1934
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