In literary agent April Eberhardt‘s short story workshop at the recent Pacific Northwest Writer’s Contest, she gave us a list of six elements to look for in stories.
Eberhardt suggests that we write our story first and then overlay these six elements on it to help polish our work.
Six elements of short stories:
Setting. Set the stage close to the beginning of the story. In my earlier post, I quote poet Nelson Bentley, “Give the readers a place to stand, and then you can take them anywhere.” Read more
The movie The Way written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen depicts the spiritual journey of a father who’s estranged son dies on the first day of his pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago, an 800-mile trek from the Pyrenees to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the burial place of St. James.
The father, a widowed ophthalmologist living in California, flies overseas to collect his son’s body but ends up walking the road and becoming a pilgrim himself. The movie is a touching story of a father’s reconnection with this son and awakening to life. It has everything going for it (as long as you don’t mind not seeing something being blown up every two seconds): incredible scenery, the father’s emotional transformation into a person his son would be proud of, great dialogue, humor, sadness, perfect pacing, and micro-tension between characters that builds throughout the story.
The script is a great example of plot defined as characters in conflict. Each character is a study in human nature. How they interact over the course of the story is a study in how the microcosm of character reflects the macrocosm of the story world. As I work through my current project, I picture this cast of characters and think about how I can create more conflict for my characters.
The Way is beautifully written, superbly rendered, and highly recommended this holiday season!