I love a good short story. A short story is like a full course meal: tasting and lingering over the appetizer, hungrily devouring the main course, and then the satisfaction of the dessert. Some stories are multi-course, fine-dining experiences, and some are street-food. Both can be good or bad, and sometimes we’re just in the mood for one or the other. But any short story requires all the elements of a meal to be successful.

The appetizer is the inciting incident that gets the story rolling; the cataclysmic event that impels the characters to take action.

Without this “appetizer” we might not feel like eating the main course – or perhaps not really enjoy it as much. We need our taste buds tempted and teased and wanting more. The content and presentation of the appetizer also sets the tone of the meal. Even if we eat it in an isolation booth we can tell where it probably comes from; a Michelin-starred restaurant, a humble ethnic café, a loving home kitchen, or a generic fast-food franchise. It is the same with a story. Even if we have no idea about the writer or their body of work, if any, by the time we’ve reached the “end of the beginning”, we should know roughly where we are in the genre spectrum, and we should have had a taste of what the story is fundamentally about.

By Cindy DeJager and Laura Pylypow

Read the whole article in the MARCH Opal Writers’ Magazine
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