Creating Short Fiction

In rereading Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction, he provides one of his annotated short stories, “Semper Fi,” for study. In the annotations, Knight mentions his third paragraph marks the moment where the action really begins in the story.

Is this a pretty good measure of when to begin action in the short story, or is it just another arbitrary point in a story?

How soon in a story should the action begin?


2 thoughts on “Creating Short Fiction

  1. In my opinion, rules and expectations are moving targets. I was recently criticized because my “story” didn’t start until the third sentence (not paragraph). Getting past the gate keepers and writing a good story are sometimes not the same goal.

  2. It really depends on the story. We can say “don’t wait too long” (you don’t want to lose the reader to boredom) and “don’t force it too soon” (you don’t want to confuse or frustrate your reader), but I don’t think we can define “too long” or “too soon” without context. Some stories can and should jump right in, but others need to take a little while to set the mood and orient the reader first.

    I tend to think the sooner, the better as a general rule, but there are always exceptions.

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