Tag Archive for: Deal with the Devil

Elaine Viets and the Art of the Short Story

 by Paula Gail Benson

Photo: Elaine Viets from Type M For Murder Blogger

Murder on the Beach Mystery Bookstore, located in Delray Beach, Florida, has been offering an excellent series of online Zoom workshops called the FL Authors Academy. Over the past few months, the store has featured such terrific writers and teachers as John Dufresne (storytelling), Debra H. Goldstein (conflict), Reed Farrel Coleman (character), and Charles Todd (point of view). The series is very economical and sometimes provides a copy of the author’s work.

Recently, as part of the FL Authors Academy, Elaine Viets presented a program about writing the mystery short story. Author of four series of mystery novels ranging from dark to cozy to humorous, Elaine has won the Agatha Award for her short story “The Wedding Knife,” featured in her 2018 short story collection Deal with the Devil published by Crippen & Landru.

Elaine’s presentation offered great advice for moving forward with a stalled story (think small/more than four characters may be too many) as well as advice about what editors want: (1) a fresh voice, (2) an unusual location, (3) offbeat characters, and (4) an appealing opening. She provided online references and a list of publishing venues.

In particular, I want to try one suggestion Elaine offered. She said, if you’re having trouble getting your story on paper, try telling it to someone. Stories originated as tales told around campfires. Sometimes, telling a story frees the author to locate the true focus and theme the author wants to convey.

That might work for longer stories, too.