Tag Archives: short stories

How to Research for a Story

Sometimes accuracy matters, sometimes it really doesn’t. Ultimately you need to serve the needs of your story before, say, physics.

That said, as the world gets smaller and information becomes easer to access, writers find their work under more scrutiny than ever before. Poking holes in fiction is a common pastime not only for trolls but for professionals in that field, and people who are genuinely interested in the topic. It’s easy to reach for a TV show, a documentary, or a quick fact in isolation from a textbook; but in doing so there’s a good chance that you’ll miss some important details and context, thus alienating those with whom this experience could resonate the most.

For example, you can’t hit someone with a Taser while touching them, or you’ll feel the effects yourself. I’m looking at you, directors of The Machine. So if you can’t go for documentaries, and you can’t rely on the veracity of blogs, academic articles are another great resource. The story I’m working on right now is a secondary world in which a talented and accomplished healer, Hrisa, quits working to save people and instead transitions to post-mortem cleanup. It’s been interesting to consider medicine in terms of a battlefield. No matter how good a healer you are, no matter the technology and access one has; the battle with death is always a losing one. You can save someone for a while, but eventually you will both lose. I wanted to see if this premise holds up to real nurses’ experience. Here are some of the articles I found. Post-traumatic stress disorder in military nurses who served in Vietnam during the war years 1965–1973, by Elizabeth M. Norman Results indicate that the number of nurses suffering from this disorder has decreased since the initial postwar years. Two variables (the intensity of the wartime experience and supportive social networks after the war) influenced the level of PTSD.

The prevalence and impact of post traumatic stress disorder and burnout syndrome in nurses, by Meredith Mealer et al This paper discusses whether post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and burnout syndrome (BOS) are common in nurses, and whether the co-existence of PTSD and BOS is associated with altered perceptions of work and nonwork-related activities.

Increased Prevalence of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Critical Care Nurses, by Meredith L. Mealer, Et Al Intensive care unit (ICU) nurses work in a demanding environment where they are repetitively exposed to traumatic situations and stressful events. The aim of this research is to determine whether there is an increased prevalence of psychological symptoms in ICU nurses when compared with general nurses. Another option, if I’m looking for something more specific or esoteric, is to seek out the paper’s author. Meredith L. Mealer’s coming up frequently, so in this case she’d be a good choice. Be prepared to hear ‘no,’ though. It’s a jungle out there long before you hit submission time.

“Most of the Island Trauma team’s work involves the bereaved or people going through emotional upheaval, which is the most difficult part of the job, explains Baruchin. “Some people will be in shock, some will break down, some people will get in there with you and clean because it was somebody they knew. That’s probably the hardest thing, but if we’ve done it right, it’s a hug-fest by the end of the job.”  — Saira Kahn, “Smelling Death: On the Job With New York’s Crime-Scene Cleaners”

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Medicine Vs. Death: Department of Health & Wellness in Fulton County, Georgia

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Burying the Coin on Podcastle!

My short story, Burying the Coin, is now available as a podcast!

Steampunk is about costumes and intricacy, alternate histories, inventions and boundless exploration that characterized the Victorian era. The costumes lead to gatherings, gatherings to shops and music, and finally to conventions and a revival in literature. Learning to write for this subgenre has been a fascinating challenge. I’ve learned about airships, 19th and early 20th century artillery, and a bit about how modern empires rise and fall.

This last part, the cracking apart of empire, resonated with me much more than the gorgeous clothes and sumptuous feasts. As lovely as those aesthetics are, it begs the question: who made this?  What kind of world produced this, and at what cost? I’ve always been fascinated by the why of things, and what lies beneath the mask — how did a person come to be the way they are, and what are they hiding?

Enter Karelia Nayar.

If this story’s world could be said to have a swath of people similar to the variety found in southern India, Karelia would be one of them. The world Karelia lives in is a kind of earth after the fall and rebirth of humanity — a far future, rather than a recent past. This might preclude the story’s classification as steampunk, but I’ll leave that up to you guys. Racism and sexism pop up occasionally; but they are absolutely dwarfed by the classism which is the beating heart of empire. There are other problems as well, but we’ll save those for the novel. That said, keep an eye out for the First Family of the Skies. They’ll be back in a big way.

I spoke a little about Karelia here, and in an interview with Fiona Skye. I wanted to write a swashbuckling, womanizing captain, who was also a woman. When I asked Karelia (or Kar to her friends) why she was so carefree, she told me it was because she never wanted to feel anything ever again. That led to this short story, Burying the Coin, where we learn how Kar earned her own ship, who taught her to fight and sail, and the events that made her close her heart forever.

My infinite thanks to Dave Thompson of Podcastle, and Amanda Fitzwater whose voice brought this story to life.

This short story is available in Podcast form, which you can either stream online or download from iTunes. Head over to Podcastle.org to hear it and the work of many other brilliant and insightful authors.

 

“You can’t truly hate a man without loving him first, and there’s always a trace of that love left over.”
— Joe Abercrombie

 

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Excellent podcasts and other resources for Audio Books

I love podcasts. They’re fascinating, entertaining, inexpensive, and at an average length of 45 minutes, perfect for the daily commute. As a novelist, I find them immeasurably helpful as self-guided lessons on how to write short stories. The format is such that I can study, practice and be thoroughly entertained while I’m cooking, doing push-ups, or heading to a friend’s house.

Even within the scope of one subscription, you’ll hear a wide variety of styles and dozens of authors, so you can get a feel for craft as well as structure and pacing. It’s amazing how many laughs, tears, and terror these writers can fit into such a small space.

Once you feel confident enough to start earning ‘cred,’ write your own! Many of these podcasts are also open to submissions.

I listen to several of these regularly, and others have been recommended to me by colleagues outside my genre. I have linked their web-sites, and you can also find them in the iTunes store. Many of these are free, and if you can’t donate, please boost the signal.

Science Fiction & Fantasy
Podcastle : Fantasy, hosted by the wonderful and charming Dave Thompson
Escape Pod : Escape Artists’ science fiction branch, edited by Norm Sherman
Beneath Ceaseless Skies : other worlds and other times, SF&F, including Weird West and Steampunk. I’ve discovered new favorites here, including Seth J. Dickinson
Tor.com Story Podcast : Great science fiction & fantasy from one of the industry’s most well-known magazines

Horror
Pseudopod :  Horror, hosted by the hilarious and insightful Alasdair Stuart
Nick Gisburne’s YouTube Channel : Includes original poetry & prose, as well as readings of HP Lovecraft’s work. (His voice. I’m telling you. You won’t regret it.)

General Fiction
Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine:  General Genre, specializing in innovative stories and commentary. I have a friend who reads slush for these guys
The Classic Tales Podcast: Great reading of classic novels and short stories
The New Yorker Short Story Podcast : Great general fiction

Free Full-Length Audio Books
Podiobooks

Did I miss any? Leave a note in the comments.

**Addendum:  Thanks to Twitter, a few other resources have popped up!

Apex Magazine: Hugo-award nominated F/SF magazine’s podcast, edited by Sigrid Ellis

Synthetic Voices: A speculative fiction podcast featuring short F/SF stories, recommended by BCS staff

Current Writing Tune: “Exit Wounds” by The Romanovs

I’m working on two completely different love stories at the moment.

Both of which climax at the same tipping point: when lover transforms into devourer.

There are tons of bodice-rippers where a stronger force sweeps the POV character off her feet. These are both from the attacker’s perspective. I wonder how sympathetic they’ll be…