Happy Summer, Dear Readers,
I’m happy to report that the Wryte-Goode clan had both a butterfly and a moon garden. With the help of darling Broccoli and delightful Brussels, I carved out two spaces tucked away from the hustle and bustle of our main gardens. The results are stunning. Tiny shining gems that invite the visitor to stay a moment and enjoy nature. With summer upon us and not even Zoom classes to keep my dear children busy at home, the Wryte-Goode household is almost pre-pandemic normal. (Yea, vaccines!) But that means the children have a full schedule of summer activities that require my attention or at least my taxi services. Running here and delivering kids there made me wonder if I could use the idea of “small” in my writing. Maybe writing smaller pieces—novellas, short stories, or even flash fiction while my newly revised novel Dreams of an Eggplant rests.
While perusing Spring garden catalogues searching for just the right perennial for that awkward corner of the yard, darling (not so little—heavens, she’s in 6th grade) Broccoli asked if we had a theme for our garden. Somewhat taken aback, I asked what she meant. Turns out her friends all have garden themes. Aster and Holly have a butterfly garden—all their plants attract butterflies. Clover has an evening or moon garden—her flowers are all white or open at night. Poppy has a burrito garden—with cilantro, black beans, chili peppers, onions, and tomatoes and claims she wants a greenhouse to grow avocados.
Then I remembered that my friends at Bethlehem Writers Group have their annual Short Story Award every year. The contest opens Jan. 1, 2022, and the theme is An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue.
So maybe I could write a mystery story? Off to the internet I went to do a bit of research. Turns out there are tons of sites to help writers cook up a good short mystery story.
- John Floyd’s blog Writing World had What’s a Mystery Short Story? And How Do You Write One? Is a wonderful place to start. Lots of basic mystery ideas and a brief explanation of short fiction basics.
- Regina Clarke is up next with “7 Amazing Ways to Write a Mystery Short Story” with tips like writing the plot backward and when you get stuck telling the story to yourself out loud.
- The Pen & the Pad had How to Write a Mystery Short Story with expert advice, including joining the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
- The Short Mystery Fiction Society is a great all-around short mystery writing resource. The society’s website is stuffed with links from current mystery conferences to member news. (Reading members’ short mystery stories is the perfect way to see what’s current in the short story mystery field.) Their email list is full of published authors with plenty of experience. It’s free to join but they only accept new members from July to December each year.
- Frank Gruber’s “Fool-proof” 11 Point Formula for Mystery Short Stories on Speed City Sisters in Crime is worth reading, even if it was originally published in 1966.
- Writers Who Kill have Writing the Mystery Short Story: Guides for Learning the Craft. An excellent list of links for short mystery story writing tips, but it was written in 2013, so some links are out of date—still, the ones that are current are good sources. Worth a bookmark and investigating.
For writers who are interested in short stories without the emphasis on mysteries.
- Jerome W. McFadden has The Seven Challenges I Love about Writing Short Stories.
- Julia Duffy’s StoryADay website has tips and videos and a member list—much is free, but some things like membership for her writers’ group are pricey. I enjoyed the free 3-Day short story challenge, and she has cool templates for planning a short story for those of you who like cool writer stuff. Also, her website’s subtitle “Write Today, not ‘Some Day’!” should be cross-stitched, framed, and hung over every writer’s computer.
- Holly’s Writing Classes are free classes, podcasts, and member site. Some classes are really expensive; however, How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck is totally free and a great writing workout. I refer to some of her activities when I get stuck. You must join the site, but again that’s free. Should you buy one of her workshops, it’s a work-at-your-own-pace deal. And you can revisit the class forever—no time limit on finishing.
Until next time, readers!
Betty Wryte-Goode is a writer and mother who lives in the Lehigh Valley. Her passions include writing, reading, shopping, gardening, and exploring the internet. Betty is always looking for writing tips, so if you have any you would like to share, please send them to her through our Submissions/Contacts page.
Mixed-Up Words of the Month
Venomous vs. Poisonous
These two adjectives don’t look anything alike, so you’re not likely to type one while meaning the other. The confusion arises from knowing the difference between venom and poison. Both are caustic substances, but they are administered in different ways.
Poison is a passively toxic substance. It must be ingested by the person or animal that is poisoned. Plants can be poisonous, as are the skins of the notorious poison dart frogs, and numerous insects. If you eat or touch them, you may get sick, but they won’t actively come to you.
In contrast, there is no such thing as a poisonous snake. You can eat them without any ill effect! Snakes have venom, which is a substance they secrete for use in hunting or self-defense. Any substance that is actively injected by an animal is venom, not poison. There is no such thing as a venomous plant outside of speculative fiction. Snakes, spiders, jellyfish, scorpions, and even octopuses are venomous.
Here’s a sentence to demonstrate: Unlucky Greg realized he should never have gone camping after falling into a river, making himself sick eating poisonous berries, and then staggering out of his tent and treading on a venomous snake.