Below is JR’s 1100-word commentary on Laura Sherman’s 700-word story, “Teacher.”
In short fiction (even more so in “flash fiction”), you’re looking for just a scene or two that is a pivot point for a character. John L’Heureux said that the goal of the short-story writer is to “Capture a moment after which nothing can ever be the same again.” Capturing that one moment sometimes requires that you capture other moments as well, but to the extent that you can, it is important to whittle down your stories to as close to one moment as possible…and to express that moment as an external action if at all possible (rather than a direct account of a character’s thoughts and feelings).
When you start writing a story, you start getting more and more ideas, many of which are great ideas. Get all those ideas down. But then start paring things back down–way down.
Laura indicated that her story was a first draft. That is to say, it was relatively early in the process, before she had made a whole lot of progress in paring things back down. Hopefully these comments provide some guidance as to what that pare-down might look like.
Video: Align subjects and verbs with actors and actions. Grammar is never just grammar. When you express actions as verbs with the actors as subjects, your writing will become more concrete and specific, as if by magic.
Blog Post: The Eye Is an Organ of Judgment. More on showing and telling.