by Laurel Scott

Dr. Terry Dalrymple of Angelo State University’s English department, spoke on “The Long and Short of Short Story Writing” at the Feb. 12 meeting of the San Angelo Writers Club. He discussed the wide variety of writing that can fall within the description “short story,” from “flash fiction,” stories as no longer than 1,000 words, to the novella, which can be as long as 50,000 words. The standard short story is defined as 1,500 to 30,000 words in length by Writers Digest. But Dalrymple said not to focus on length.
“I don’t think it makes much difference. If it’s a good story, it’s a good story.” He said flash fiction is very popular currently in literary magazines and journals but said, “It’s so much harder to write an 800-word story.”

Rapt Audience

He also talked about inspiration and what fiction is and is not. He and two other authors, Jerry Craven and Andrew Geyer, did what is known as a short story cycle of four stories by each writer, for a total of 12, that had to connect in some way. Titled “Dancing on Barbed Wire.”
“It was an interesting thing to do and it inspired me.” He said he “hears voices,” pieces of dialogue or description that can turn into a short story. One example he gave was writing a story just from the word on a car license plate. He emphasized, though, that ideas don’t make a story, characters do. And he said fiction is not about creating, it’s about re-creating.
“We don’t create out of nothing, like God created light. We re-create. Fiction is like counterfeit money, it is supposed to look like the real thing even though it’s not.” He emphasized that the elements of fiction — character, plot, point of view and setting — also includes believe-ability.
He concluded with one piece of “major advice”: at least one character has to be a complex human being and quoted the phrase “friction equals fiction.”