Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Dessert Tray by S.G. Rogers

The Dessert Tray

Whenever I concoct a short story, I approach it like an improvisation class.  That is to say, a couple of actors get on the stage with opposing goals in mind and then they duke it out.  Since the time on stage is limited, it’s best to get the goals established as soon as possible and have the conflict begin right away. 

Okay, improv class is over.  You watched maybe ten different scenes, and some of them were pretty good.  Perhaps one or two were really great.  Which ones stuck out in your mind…and why?  I’m guessing the standout actors had the ability to make you care about them and how they resolved their conflicts. 

That’s the secret to a great short story, the kind where your eyes are glued to the page as you read, and you sit back afterwards with a little gasp.  You think about the characters before you drift off to sleep, and into the next day, and you can’t wait to tell your buddies about the totally awesome golden nugget you discovered.  Your tail wags as you ponder how the story could be made into a movie…and you start casting actors in your mind.

Personally, I’m a proud graduate of Reject U.  You can learn a lot about yourself and writing from
rejection.  Even the form rejects tell you something important.  Assuming you submitted your literary genius to the correct forum and they reject you without comment…guess what?  The editors read at least enough of your story to know they didn’t care enough to publish it. 

So what makes readers care?  Flawed characters are inherently more interesting than the ones coated with Teflon.  Unexpected vulnerability is more memorable than clich├ęd weakness.  Cool settings are fabulous, but it’s the players who matter.  I wrote a story once about a guy so perfect my writing group wanted to kick him into a ditch and give him Murder on The Orient Express treatment.  Although I was shocked at the time, that blunt feedback was a gift that taught me a valuable lesson.

I want to read stories in which the author brings in the characters and then sets the stage.  I want to hear that line of dialogue that causes my eyes to widen.  I don’t want to witness the ambush; I want to see the blood pouring from the wound—and discover what the character is going to do about it. 

A speculative fiction short story should be like a small sliver of fantastic cheesecake.  From the first bite, you know you’ve got a special dessert.  It’s rich and satisfying the whole way through and goes well with a cup of coffee.  Afterwards, you crave more.  As an added bonus, it ends up in your imagination, not on your thighs.  ~S.G. Rogers

Being dedicated to the diabolical doesn’t seem to satisfy Jem anymore.  When the gorgeous demon poses for elderly artist Greer Richmond, the two form a connection.  Greer senses good in her, but Jem rebels against the idea by going on a Vegas bender.  After Jem gets word Greer is about to die, she inexplicably wants to make sure he gets to heaven—but her boss has other plans.  As penance for her interference, Jem is assigned to take one of Greer’s descendants instead.  Unfortunately handsome Dare Richmond awakens feelings in Jem a demon isn’t supposed to have.  Will Jem be able to complete her task, or has fate dealt the demon an impossible hand?

Download S.G. Rogers’ short story Apocrypha HERE, free as part of Musa Publishing’s Twelve Days of Christmas celebration.  Look for S.G. Rogers’ Asgard Adventure series (April 2012), beginning with The Druid.  Nordic mythology gets a modern twist in The Druid, in which an adventuresome woman meets an Immortal hero from the pages of a book—bigger than life and twice as Elvish.  To learn more about S.G. Rogers, visit her blog at


Lindsay said...

Love the analogy

Amaleen Ison said...

Wonderful post. You've helped to demystify the process of writing a short story.

Sharon Ledwith said...

Love flawed characters - like seeing a chewed, bloody ear on Lassie. Brilliant!Looking forward to your release with Musa!

Pat McDermott said...

A nice blunt writing group is a treasure. Glad you considered their advice. Thanks for passing it on.

Jan Romes said...

Lots of good info, Suzanne! :-) Thanks for sharing!!