I think part of writing is knowing exactly what you think telling a story ought to be. This doesn't mean you should never change your opinion, but knowing how you think a short story should be told is important. You should be able to articulate some points of what you think makes a good short story or a bad one. Otherwise you are just making stuff up on the fly and your stories might lack consistency.
Enough of my blah, blah, blah. On to the good stuff:
21. One character should never tell another character the story. Conrad could do this but you can’t.Right away this irks me. Yes, frame stories are hard to pull off, but this particular nugget is telling you not to do them because you aren't as good as that guy. I say go for it, just keep in mind frame stories are harder to pull off, and if someone does like your short story, they may just ask you to edit that portion out.
I personally am not a fan of the frame story, because it is too much like a story about a writer. It feels either too meta or forced.
22. If you have more than one character, make them work at cross purposes. You can kill one if you like.I say this is not bad, but I would refine it. If you have more than one character make sure they aren't doing the same things. For example in Damien Broderick's "Time Considered..."You have two main characters with the same goal, but one's role is completely different than the other. One is also a risk taker and the other is the cautious one. This creates the conflict that Terry Bisson I think was trying to advise.
23.Too many little impediments make a story seem jiggly. One or two big ones are better.Fully agree here. Short stories require a lot of focus and need to be lean. There can be some minor blocks in the road, but they probably shouldn't outnumber the major obstacles.
24. A short story should cover a day or two at most. A week is stretching it.Apart from a quick flash forward to a Where Are They Now ending, I agree. The timeline should feel more immediate otherwise the paces becomes too epic for the small package.
25. One setting is best. Movement is not action.Another important lesson about keeping your story lean and focused. Each new setting will require some description, and the given that most short stories are meant to evoke a feeling of this is happening right now descriptions of new places slow things the eff down.
26. Action is overrated anyway.Yep. Action is overrated, and typically over-written. Tell us how a character feels, and get to the conflict! Don't tell us they ducked, and then parried, and then slowly peeled a banana, leaving the peel so someone could slip on it later.
27. Every character has a history, but most don’t belong in the story. This is Hemingway’s rule.Love Hemingway, hate the rule. History and background are integral to making your character seem less like a cardboard cut out. The key here is moderation. Actually, a step back from moderation. Most writers are great at providing too much detail, scale it back till you think you've barely scratched the surface. Then you might just have it.
28. Know who is telling the story, and why. This can be the hard part.Why is the big part here. The why is because this is the most interesting person who could be telling this story.
29. Even a story without a narrator has a narrator.Not too sure what he means here. I think it is making sure you are actually telling us more than what is happening even-wise. We need to know a little bit of why the boy isn't scared of the monster that is coming to steal his teeth. (because the monster is a fair who leaves money, and the teeth aren't in his mouth).
30. Polish. Short stories are like poems in that they may be read more than once. A really good short story will be read several times. Beware.EDIT. Dean Wesley Smith may say editing is your enemy, and he may be right. But editing is a proven method to take a good story better. How many times have you wished you could've changes that one part? Wished you had not given the girl blonde hair? You polish and edit to make sure you are sure.
31. Polish. Your readers should fear you, a little.Sames as above. Your story should be so good others will feel they will never live up to that standard. Lord knows I doubt I'll ever be as good as JA Konrath!
32. Use your characters to release the information. This is what they’re for. Try not to have them read it in newspapers.Avoid the Info dump. A conversation between characters is also a lot more active and therefore interesting than watching someone watch TV.
33. Make their dialogue do double or triple duty. Small talk in SF is like carbonation in wine. It detracts.Wine snob. But dialogue does need serve more than one purpose. Any scene in a novel should either build character, setting, or plot. Dialogue in a short story should probably follow those same guides.
34. Humor is OK but only if it seems offhand. Never pause for a laugh.It is hard to build an entire story just for one joke. Ask any web comic. It takes a lot of effort for it to seem natural and not hammy.
35. No funny names, please.Definitely agree. If only because it draws attention away from the story, and may slow down all the momentum you've built since most people read like they speak and will mentally fumble with names that are too exotic or comical.
36. No magic carpets or Once Upon a Times. A fable is not a short story. A joke is not a short story.I disagree on the fable with conviction. Fables and fairytales are some of the most compelling and haunting stories people read. Red riding hood and Beastly anyone?
37. No wizards or dragons. They will make your short story seem like a part of a longer, less interesting piece.Hate these hard and fast rules. I think this should read, make sure you don't have a gorilla in a phone booth. The joke goes a writer has two people walking down a street in conversation, one mentions that there is gorilla in a phone booth right beside them, then they continue walking past it and keep with their current conversation. And every reader just wants to know why there was a gorilla in the phone booth! Don't let anything in your universe be more interesting than your story!
38. Don’t meander or digress. You can pretend to meander for misdirection. See below.Make sure everything you are introducing is on purpose, and see if you can't have it be introduced for multiple purposes (character, setting, or plot)
39. Misdirection is interesting. SF readers like puzzles.Readers love the surprise and mystery. They feel like they've seen it all. Just make sure it is an inevitable surprise. That is, a surprise that you have left little breadcrumbs that they can go back to and point to and say, "yeah that totally makes sense!'
40. Fights are only interesting in real life. They are boring in stories.And they are especially boring in short stories. Fights actually are typically very bloated parts of stories. You have blocking, and then character's emotions, their what-if scenario's...it....takes...for...ever to get through. Just tell me who won and get on with the story!
Part three will end Bisson's list, and you all will probably be happy that I won't have anymore fodder to complain about.
Please tell me if you agree or disagree with me or Bisson on something. I love comments!