Short Story Craft with Douglas Smith

The open house and first event of the WCYR 2021/2022 season welcomed author Douglas Smith. Doug led us on a journey through the craft of creating short stories.

One of the first things Doug did was encourage us to make use of our toolbox. We’re writers and members of a great writing community. Many of us have attended seminars and workshops from various guest speakers over the years. We have learned a lot (and we still keep learning). It was time to put those skills to use and learn how they all fit together.

One of the most common questions writers get asked is: “Where do you get your ideas?” Many writers are writers because they are always getting ideas for stories. Doug explained a helpful way to sort through those ideas and discover what will make the best stories. You have to “triage” your ideas. Which ones are BAD ideas, which ones will make a good story SOMEDAY, which ones are SCREAMING to be written? The screaming idea is the one that should be dealt with first – write to quiet the loudest voice in your head. The best stories often combine two or three of the story doorways: an usual idea, a striking image, an interesting character.

When you have an idea, how do you develop it? As an example of this process, Doug took examples from his own story, “Scream Angel”. Ask questions about your idea. How did the situation arise? Who are these people? Where did they come from? Why are they here? Where is “here”? When is “here”? Doug is a sci-fi/fantasy writer, but these questions can be applied to any genre, from historical romance to space opera. A good story will often have non-obvious answers to these questions. We need the reader to care. Finally, Doug told us we need to “bring the pain.” We should also take chances. We won’t know until we try.

Doug referenced many great sources during his presentation, including “Deep Dive Into POV” with our very own Kim McDougall, a workshop she conducted in May 2021. Close POV is a valuable tool in that toolbox. Doug took us through story structure, character development, symbolism, and more. It was an invaluable presentation. We hope Doug will come back so we can further explore the toolbox.

You can find Doug at, on Twitter, Bookbub, Goodreads and Amazon.

Upcoming Events:

Prepping for NaNoWriMo with MJ Moores – October 7, 7:00pm to 8:30pm

York Writers Conference 2021 – October 22 to 24

15 Key Editing Tricks with Greg Ioannou – November 14, 1:30pm to 4:00pm

Written by

When Loni isn't reading other people's words or running around after her two young children, she spends time writing stories of her own. She finds inspiration in the little things, but also in momentous events. Loni currently resides in York Region. Twitter: @LoniStorm Instagram: loni_storm Facebook: @LoniCameronWriter

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Douglas Smith
2 years ago

Thanks, Loni! Good summary. And thanks to the WCYR for inviting me to speak.