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Hi Gator and others,

I've had similar aspirations myself (I've got a handful of unfinished short stories lying around), but my efforts fall down badly on two counts - "the middle bit" and characterisation. The former probably seems to be the biggest hurdle for aspiring writers, but I actually think characterisation is the biggest failing of poor writers.

Writing short stories may help with the "middle bit" problem, though as others have suggested, a good short story can probably be as hard or harder to write than a novel. Still, at least with a short story you can finish it more quickly and move on, learning from the experience, and putting aside bad results without the same emotional attachments you might have to a bad novel.

But creating convincing characters is very hard, whatever the length of the story. The reason? I think it's probably because creating a convincing character requires you to put yourself in someone else's mind, and that is usually very difficult indeed. If you try to create someone who is very different from yourself (and you have to, if you want a convincing cast), it is all too easy to end up with a wooden stereotype rather than a believable character.

Stephen King has been mentioned in this thread, and I think a mark of his success is that he can create good characters - characters that are very dissimilar from his own personality. In fact, I think one of the best books for an aspring writer to read (essential reading, I'd say, even), is his "On Writing"...

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671024256

I like to think that maybe one day I'll produce a short story good enough for others to read. But, if I'm honest, I have to say it is unlikely :-)

Best regards,
Alan


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