9 points on writing edgy stories
My second post on writing edgy short stories.
Here are some suggestions. (My previous post will add meaning to this.)
1. Write with a clear voice. Not yours, your character’s. It doesn’t have to be first person. You can write third person from the main character’s (MC) point of view. What matters is that point of view, the reader feeling sure s/he is standing in the MC’s shoes.
2. The reader doesn’t have to like the MC. It is edgier if a sneaky liking for a character makes the reader uneasy or worse. (What sort of person must I be if I feel sympathy for this baddie I’m reading about?)
3. Short stories can’t cope with having too many characters. The edginess may depend on being in the MC’s head most of the read, so the reader has to be drawn to him/her in some way – even horror or outrage can achieve this.
4. Dialogue has to do its job well and pithily. Every word counts; every unnecessary word detracts. A character merely saying ‘Whatever‘ can give a total feel of his/her reaction, whereas a whole sentence may not.
5. Structure. If you are working on : 1/5 start, 3/5 middle. 1/5 end, that final fifth must hit home. Either shock the reader by reversing all his/her expectations or let your MC cross over some unacceptable line. It may ‘only’ mean stealing a child’s bike and pretending innocence. However, the ‘journey’ must be there, and it’s vital that whatever happened is some kind of shock to the system.
6. Edginess doesn’t necessarily require extreme sexual or aggressive behaviour. Risk of some form is usually involved but an action close to home can cause the uneasiest feelings, or an everyday event suddenly appearing to have a different significance.
7. The edgy story does not have to be crime or erotica. It can suggest something subtly sinister. It can be socially provocative. It can be funny. It’s no longer edgy for sexual abuse to be involved, not because it’s any more acceptable, but because it’s now hackneyed as a character device.
8. It is still edgy to nudge into those actions that would be too awkward to admit to a friend. e.g. a friendship established in the first 4/5th of the tale where we worry that this friend is about to cheat or betray. The last fifth reveals that we are wrong. The kickback is that the assumptions we made highlight our own prejudices. Edginess must produce unease.
I hope I’ve achieved this in the first two of my Crime Shorts, A Boy with Potential and Homed. Do let me know if I have.