A Short Story is not a Car

A Short Story is Not a Car.

At the writers’ group, the first one I went to,

we were issued a list of things to check

when we’re critiquing each others’ stories,

the usual things like plot, character, setting, dialogue.

We’d put a tick or a cross depending whether the requirements were met.

All well and good.

Yet I couldn’t help thinking of the checklist that mechanics fill out

when they’re servicing your car.

So I said,

“A short story is not a car!”

This put a brake on proceedings.

They didn’t know what I was driving at.

but I felt I was onto something.

I pushed the pedal even further.

We were heading for a collision,

the tutor and me.

I didn’t know what the perfect metaphor was

nor did anyone else

but I was darn sure it wasn’t a car.

34 thoughts on “A Short Story is not a Car

  1. Great short story… oops, I think the writer’s group might say that a poem is not a short story. I’ve never been to a writers’ (I don’t even know if it’s “writer’s” or “writers’ “) group — I think I’d be disruptive like this. I can’t follow checklists and gosh, the metaphors from Shakespeare or the bible they let pass but they condemn others. Yet I imagine the workshoppers use and they let all kinds of tree and flower metaphors take root. So what is the root of the problem? I don’t know. After all, a short story is like a car just on principle: older writing is full of horse metaphors and writers swear that it gives their writing horsepower but it’s often horse manure. It only seems fair that with unbridled joy we embrace car metaphors. I mean horses are no longer part of daily transportation and commerce in most places and the mail is not usually delivered by horse. Well, at least we can still go to the dogs, even if “That dog don’t hunt”(you have to say that with a US southern accent) [gosh, sometimes they even forgive grammar mistakes — “That dog doesn’t hunt]. ||check box||: check grammar.
        But maybe I see their point that the TV show “My Mother the Car” had no horsepower. ||check box|| Don’t make allusions that most people are not familiar with or Roman à Cléf for people who are not famous like Lassie the dog.
        OMG, I’ve left out the scene. Our writing group is in the Twilight Zone in a cabin in the woods and everyone has a pipe, wears a smoking jacket, and has a chicken feather pen. It’s a tragedy: a serial killer from outer space who is part of a game show for aliens steals their pens, and says, “A short story is a space ship for space cadets.”

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks. I don’t know if I should post a “revise or dump series.” I could post pieces of my “The Blog That Would Destroy the World” blog novel. I guess that would be silly — the last time, years ago, I got a lot of followers but they were all silent readers, silent commentators, and non-buyers. What do they call that… a left-handed compliment? Oh yeah, none of the boxes were checked.

        Liked by 1 person

      • my experience is, Doug, people will NOT read long posts; you need to keep them short, zippy and entertaining. People are NOT prepared to put in the time to read and comment on long posts —

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  2. I totally get what you mean John. Stories can tick all the boxes if it’s graded against a rubric — a check mark for satisfying each of the requirements.

    What’s difficult to measure are the intangibles — imagination of the writer, balance of character, plot, setting, conflict, ability to connect to the reader, believability, and so much more. Maybe your tutor is an expert in the field, and the parameters provided are a good start. Still… there’s nothing that compares to a writer who is well-read and one who has read widely, someone who can articulate why one story works and why another does not. From what I’ve read of your work, you are definitely of this camp. You think outside the checkboxes, and that’s a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. For real! I love that. I always come back to how the story made me feel—heart, soul, emotion. Cars can have that too, but that’s not something your mechanic can check for. It’s something you have to feel behind the wheel.

    Liked by 1 person

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