The Short and Long of It

The Short and Long of It GENRE: Nonfiction
ISBN: 9781634861267 (e-book), 9781532832857 (print)


    Do you write short fiction but long to s-t-r-e-t-c-h those tight little 55ers, flash pieces, and short stories into longer, publishable work? Do you have binders full of short pieces with characters you’d love to flesh out? Are you dying to tell the rest of these stories?

    If so, The Short and Long of It is for you!

    Award-winning short fiction writer Paul Alan Fahey shows you how to expand and adapt your brief creations into longer, more satisfying stories, plays, novellas, and novels pitch perfect for publication in the e-age.

    This book will help you practice expanding your short fiction. Through detailed examples and hands-on exercises, you’ll learn how to:

    • Adapt 55 fiction into flash fiction;
    • Adapt flash fiction into short stories and plays;
    • Adapt flash memoir into personal essays;
    • Write a tight logline;
    • Develop a story theme;
    • Build three-act structure; and
    • Develop characters and enhance backstory.

    So grab a copy today and start writing longer stories tomorrow!

JMS Books LLC | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble

JMS Books LLC | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

    Chapter 2: Flash Fiction

    Flash fiction may seem like a relatively new genre, but you may be surprised to learn it's been around for some time. James Thurber imagined a hung-over Ulysses S. Grant meeting Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and surrendering his sword to the bewildered general from the South. Katherine Anne Porter told a tale of magic about a New Orleans prostitute who rebelled against her abusive madam and left the "house" only to return in a week, meek and mild, after the madam's cook cast a spell on her.

    What do these stories have in common? Each one has a length of approximately 1,500 words, and there are many more such pieces, some even shorter, written by Chekhov, Crane, Kafka, Lessing, and De Maupassant. Even Hemingway's A Very Short Story weighs in at slightly over 600 words.

    Reading flash fiction or short-shorts of 500 to 1,500 words -- some editors extend the word limit to 2,000 -- is like eating potato chips or for me, cashews. You can't read just one. You gobble them down, one tantalizing bit after another. Whether they're called blasters, postcard fiction, micro-fiction, sudden fiction, short-shorts, or flash fiction, the essence of the genre is the same. The writer quickly gets into the story, establishes setting and character, sets up the conflict, fills-in critical back story, then heads faster than a speeding bullet toward the climax and resolution.

    Almost every How To writing text stresses the importance of learning to write cleanly and concisely. Experts tell us to pare down our adjectives and adverbs and shorten lengthy prose by finding just the right words to describe character and setting. As writers, we hone our skills like trained athletes, but instead of setting physical tasks for ourselves, we exercise daily in our journals and notebooks. Through these writing routines, we flesh out characters, try out themes, explore point of view (POV), voice, and often create story drafts in just one sitting. Some of these wonderful gems often lead beyond flash to even lengthier works -- short stories and novellas -- perfect for publishing in the e-age.

    * * * *

    Examples of Flash Fiction

    Let's begin by taking a close look at one of my favorite pieces.

    * * * *

    Carpathia by Jesse Lee Kercheval

    It happened on my parents' honeymoon. The fourth morning out from New York, Mother woke to find the Carpathia still, engines silent. She woke Father; they rushed to the deck in their nightgowns. The first thing they saw was the white of an ocean filled with ice, then they saw white boats, in groups of two or three, pulling slowly toward the Carpathia. My father read the name written in red across their bows -- Titanic. The sun was shining. Here and there a deck chair floated on the calm sea. There was nothing else.

    The survivors came on board in small groups. Women and children. Two sailors for each boat. The women of the Carpathia went to the women of the Titanic, wrapping them in their long warm furs. My mother left my father's side to go to them. The women went down on their knees on the deck and prayed, holding each other's children. My father stood looking at the icy water where, if he had been on the other ship, he would be.

    When the Carpathia dropped off the survivors in New York, my parents too got off and took the train home, not talking much, the honeymoon anything but a success. At the welcome-home party, my father got drunk. When someone asked about the Titanic, he said, "They should have put the men in the lifeboats. Men can marry again, have new families. What's the use of all those widows and orphans?" My mother, who was standing next to him, turned her face away. She was pregnant, eighteen. She was the one drowning. But there was no one there to rescue her. (275 words)

    * * * *

    Two hundred and seventy-five words and a gem of a story. Wouldn't you agree? Carpathia is just too good not to be read several times, if only to study the simplicity of its structure and emotional depth. At first Carpathia feels like a memoir. Anyone familiar with the facts surrounding the sinking of the Titanic might guess where this is all headed. Another rescue tale coming up. But not so fast. By the time we've read the last few sentences, we realize Carpathia is about so much more than what we originally thought -- it's a statement of the times and a woman's place in them.

    “Turn short into long: Everything you need to know told by an expert. A must-have!” -- Ruth Harris, New York Times and Amazon bestselling author

    “A brightly written, encouraging, and practical guide to creating in the vibrant medium of short fiction taught by a master: Paul Alan Fahey. Sharpen your pencils and happily get going with this wonderful workbook.” -- Dianne Emley, Los Angeles Times and Amazon bestselling author of the Detective Nan Vining series including Killing Secrets

    “Was reading Paul Fahey's awesome book on short fiction during flight, had to stop cause he inspired me to write. :)” -- Justin Schwartzenberger, SoCreate screenwriting software engineer

    “What I love best about the book ... is the wealth of examples you've included, not just your own but so many other great authors' works.” -- Susan Tuttle, at, author of suspense novels and the Write It Right series

    “In his friendly and encouraging style, Paul takes one's hand and walks alongside, with many delightful examples and practical exercises that make the writing process almost happen by itself.” -- Lourenza Adlem, writer and editor

    The Short and Long of It is a priceless collection. Paul's experience and talent shine through the entire collection and instructions. And the literary references and connections-superb!” -- M.M. Gornell, mystery author

    “This book on the craft of writing is a bookshelf must. There are many books on craft ... and a great many of those offer tips on writing short stories. Paul Fahey's receives a 5-star rating.” -- D.J. Adamson, author of the Lillian Dove Mystery Series, editor of Le Coeur de l'Artiste

    “Paul Alan Fahey encourages you to dabble in, then perfect the 'short-write' craft, as he has done over the years…he makes it obvious that we can write short, and enjoy it!” -- Rolynn Anderson, at, author of the Funeral Planner Suspense Series

    “This book challenges authors to choose their words wisely and to make every word count. Paul Fahey is a master at his craft.” -- Brita Addams, at, author of Beloved Unmasked and the Tarnished series

    “In The Short and Long of It, Paul Alan Fahey shows us this pleasure of new possibility with his many ideas for changing one form of writing into other forms. Any writers who want to do more with their creations should consider the ideas in this helpful book.” -- Pamelyn Casto, writer, instructor, and editor of Flash Fiction Flash Newsletter: The Newsletter For Flash Literature Writers

    “Marvelously motivating advice, served up with wit, plenty of encouragement, and with charming, entertaining examples.” -- Clare London, author of the With a Kick series

    “I LOVED IT! Your book gave me courage to think about pulling my screenplay out and tweaking it.” -- Barbara Barcellona Smith, author of the children's book, Let's Eat Snails



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