by Bryan Patrick Avery
Have you ever wanted to try a new genre of story? Maybe you need to fix some problems with a current piece and don’t know where to start? I may have the solution for you: write a short story. Short stories are, by definition, short. This means that you can try things out without spending too much time or energy. They’re perfect for trying out new things, getting to know your characters, or even just trying to figure out if you like that idea that’s been bouncing around in your head. This month, let’s look at two shorts stories of mine that I think have helped me become a better writer.
A number of years ago, I was hard at work on a middle grade mystery novel featuring Marilyn Jackson, a 12-year-old African America girl who was a magician. I struggled with a number of elements related to the book but my biggest challenge was fleshing out the main character which became obvious once I started submitting the work. Almost universally, the feedback was that, though the character seemed interesting, she was hard to connect with.
With a little help, I realized all the things I didn’t know about my character. Namely, I had failed to understand three key things:
I scratched my head over how to address this until I decided to write and submit a short mystery for consideration in a Mystery Writers of America middle grade anthology. I decided to use my short story to explore the things I hadn’t thought about when working on the novel. I set the story during a school day and surrounded my main character (who was now a boy named Marlon instead of a girl named Marilyn) with friends and teachers. This allowed me to explore who my magician was and how he would respond to conflict. The result? My story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, was selected for inclusion in the anthology which became the popular book SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES edited by Chris Grabenstein.
Another way short stories can help your writing as by allowing you to explore and experiment. This is what I did when I wrote “Grandma’s Greens Chase the Blues Away”.
Those who know me know that my early days of published writing started with poetry. I still love reading and writing poetry, but it had been a while since I had submitted anything for publication. I have wanted to write a novel in verse for some time but wasn’t sure how to best approach it. Writing a short story in verse helped my get over my fears and allowed me to get my poetry legs under me. “Grandma’s Greens” will be published later this year in an anthology called THE ANTI RACIST KITCHEN – 21 STORIES (AND RECIPES) edited by Nadia L. Hohn. I can’t wait for everyone to read it.
So, if you’re struggling with a longer piece or you want to experiment with a different style or genre, take a shot at writing a short story. The shorter form will help you focus your efforts while not taxing you with a long-term project.
Well, that’s all for this month. Happy writing and have a magical month.
Bryan Patrick Avery is an award-winning poet and author of more than a dozen books for children. His middle grade collective biography, BLACK MEN IN SCIENCE, illustrated by Nikita Leanne, was released in 2022. Bryan is also the author of the middle-grade story, “The Magic Day Mystery”, which appears in SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES, THE FREEMAN FIELD PHOTOGRAPH, illustrated by Jerome White, the early chapter book series, MR. GRIZLEY’S CLASS, illustrated by Arief Putra and the picture books EARL LEARNS A LESSON and MAX’S MAGIC CHANGE, both illustrated by Roman Diaz.
Bryan serves on the board of directors of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is an Amplify Black Stories Fellow, a joint program presented by the Brown Bookshelf and the Highlights Foundation. Bryan lives in northern California with his family.
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We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome multi-published former student Shirin Shamsi who will be focusing on Muslim and cultural kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break