41. Novels are made out of characters and events. Short stories are made out of words alone. They are all surface. Polish.Mr. Bisson is again talking about focus of your short story. You have only so many words to work with (unless you are working on the almost never seen Serial story), and a very small span of time to engage your reader. That being said I feel character is very important still. You want to the reader to be able to care for them, but they won't be caring for them specifically because they've spent a long time with them and read all there adventures. They need to care about them because they seem real, and are reacting to the story events in a realistic manner.
42. Plot is important only in time travel stories. They must have a paradox. This limits their range severely.I have many arguments with this one. Plot is just as important in a short story regardless of nature. Sure most short stories are character driven, but you still need them to do something. A 5,000 word navel gazing character is going to be a very long read.
43. Symmetry is more important than plot. A short story must make a pleasing shape, and close with a click.His plot remark aside, I agree with the symmetry portion. People want beginning middle and end. We all desire closure for our own life events, but that may not happen. Give your readers the peace of mind they can't be assured in their own life in your story.
44. Sex is out of place in a short story, unless it has already happened or will happen after the story is over. See 40, fighting, above.Phew! I actually agree with this part. Sex, like action scenes, can be done well, but if you can just allude to them in your story, the reader's imagination will do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
45. Surprises are good, but only if they appear to be planned.Discovery writers may thumb their nose at this, but at the end of the day, you will need to edit your writing. This will involve the obviously typo's and grammar, but also the story mechanics. Readers like to be surprised, but they typically will only like a surprise if they could have figured it out themselves. Remember, twists are fun when they are surprising but inevitable.
46. Try to put something interesting on every page. This is Gene Wolfe’ s rule.Another "be deliberate" rule. Be measured with your fun. If you start the entire story with the interesting bits, you will lose reader interest and they may never finish your story. Save it all for the end, and your reader may never reach the end. Moderate the tempo and interesting bits as best you can so you are always tugging the reader along with the promise of more.
47. Telling can be better than showing. It all depends on who’s doing the telling.I would love commenter takes on this rule. I have a feeling of what he is trying to say, but I think I'm wrong.
48. Racial and sexual stereotypes are (still) default SF. Avoiding them takes more than reversals.Federation society's will have race/species tensions, and Medieval society's almost always require there be commoner's field hands someone being taken advantage of. Just making the ruling/powerouse society be a minority(sexual, racial, special[?]) will not mean your story is free of these stereotypes. You have just done a find an replace with words.
49. Space breaks regulate timeline. They make a story look modern but also conventional.Sounds like a basic formatting rule? The single line with a hashmark (#) is one of the most understood symbol for a break in the story. If you plan on switching view points or skipping ahead in time, you separate the new part of the story from the old with single line containing a hashmark.
50. Go easy on character descriptions. Nobody cares what your characters look like. They only need to be able to tell them apart.Stephen king has a famous for how he approached description for Carrie " and that is all he wrote about her. We never are told she has hair like raven feathers, and eyes like pools of ink. Instead he gives us a very general description and lets the reader fill in the blanks. Let your reader do the heavy lifting when it comes to descriptions of people. They will eventually make their own picture in their head anyway. The more descriptions you give the hard you make it for the reader to connect.
51. Repetition is good for symmetry but must be used carefully, like Tabasco.I love tabasco, so not the right simile for me, but it is spot on otherwise. I don't want to read 50 lines of "and she cried and cried." But if you start the story with a girl crying, and then end it with her, or maybe the object of her affection crying, you bring that symmetry Bisson refers to, and help the story close in a natural manner.
52. Never write about a writer. It makes you seem needy.Yup! Agree, but never say never. I just read a lovely rough draft in my writer's group and it had an story writing conceit that was pulled off very well.
53. Leave stuff out. It’s what’s left out that puts what’s left in to work.Let the reader do the heavy lifting again. You give them the lines, they can fill in the color.
54. Withhold as much information as possible for as long as possible. When the reader knows everything, the story is over.AKA the Grand Reveal (god is revealed to be a rabbit, so the healing properties of carrots make a lot more sense). Do not confuse this with a writing Conceit (we are all in cages, and huddle together, searching for orange bits of food, and drink from metal straws...for you see we are all rabbits). The conceit is a cheap shot by the author, the grand reveal is much more satisfying to the reader.
55. After you finish your story, go back and cut your first paragraph. Now it is finished.Meh, you probably started your story to early anyway.
56. Imagine a reader both sympathetic and cruel. Pretend you are that reader when you edit.A writer's job is to write, use remember that writing does include pruning your work. Any gardener can grow things, but a real gardener, will make sure only the things they wish can grow.
57. Read your story aloud. It must run under a half an hour. This is about 4000 words. Anything longer than this and people start to fidget.Disagree. The story is as long as it is. That being said, if it is over that 4k mark, it needs to grab attention otherwise you will hear the chair creak as people's patience wear thin.
58. Don’t do voices. A dry, academic reading style is best unless you are John Crowley or Gahan Wilson.Do voices if you want! Just study from the masters so you can see what worked.
59. Ignore these rules at your peril.Learn theses rules. If you do end up breaking them a) know that you are breaking a rule and b) make sure you are breaking them on purpose.
60. Peril is the SF short story writer’s accomplice, adversary, and friend.Everyone loves tension, crank it up and stretch it out, just make sure the end provides relief, release, and closure!
The thing to take away from any rule given to you is that you understand what the rule is trying to teach. Once you feel good about having learned the lesson, you will probably find you already adhere to it, or if you apply what you learned, your story will probably shine more than it did already. But don't be afraid to break any rule, just because someone says only The Greats can manage these feats. Writing is an eternal college of learning, and you should always experiment when you are in college ;-)