As you know, you will sit the above controlled assessment during English lesson-time tomorrow (Thursday 2 May) and Friday 3 May. The task is as follows:
You should consider the following advice when planning your short story:
– Do not span long periods of time or a range of locations in your story. There just isn’t enough ‘space’ in an effective short story to cover such a wide span in time and place.
– Dialogue must be a key feature of your story. While your story does not have to be dominated by dialogue like The Killers, it must play a pivotal role in your story. Remember, dialogue ought to reveal information about characters (through what they say or what is said about them) and/or propel the narrative (move the plot forward, perhaps by revealing key information that causes a development of the events).
– As the examiner says, you must show control and manipulation of sentence structures as well as a wide range of deliberate, interesting vocabulary choices.
– Following on from the last point, do think about the pacing of your story – where do you want the pace to pick up and where must it slow down? How will your choice of sentence structures help you to achieve the desired effects?
– Keep the reader interested throughout by keeping him/her guessing throughout. We all disagreed with Vonnegut’s exhortation (“To hell with suspense”) so we therefore agree that a process of drip-feeding information, dropping subtle hints and clues, all serving to cleverly foreshadow events to come, is the key to a successful short story. Include specific ways of doing this in your plan.
– The ending of your story may provide a moment of reflection for the character (or narrator) in which (s)he’ll look back on/ponder/recover from the events that have occurred earlier in the story. Linking the ending to the beginning is a nice way to close the circle.
– Never end with a cliffhanger! They are clichéd and are, in short, a lazy way of ending a story. What works well in a novel, regular cliffhangers at the end of each chapter (think The Da Vinci Code), doesn’t work in the narrow confines of a 1000-word short story.
– Finally, ensure you not only punctuate your writing accurately throughout with the basics – capital letters and full stops – but that you use speech marks for every instance of direct speech, question and exclamation marks where appropriate and even semicolons and colons. You must use these correctly and with confidence but as with anything, do not overdo it: an regular use of exclamation marks a la Facebook simply lessens the impact that they have on your writing.
Best of luck!