Writing Character-Driven Short Stories | Yiyun Li | Skillshare

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Yiyun Li, Writer

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8 Lessons (47m)
    • 1. Introduction

      3:01
    • 2. Your Assignment: Write a Short Story

      4:03
    • 3. What Is a Short Story?

      8:04
    • 4. Developing Characters

      7:29
    • 5. Transforming Situations into Stories

      6:44
    • 6. Writing Your Story

      5:11
    • 7. Revising and Workshopping

      9:40
    • 8. Final Thoughts: Publishing and Inspiration

      2:35
147 students are watching this class

About This Class

How do you write a great short story? In this 45-minute class, Yiyun Li walks us through prompts, strategies, and advice for writing compelling characters, turning situations into stories, and revising work into a polished piece.

Li is a professor at UC Davis, a MacArthur Fellow, and has been named a "20 Under 40" writer by The New Yorker. In addition to the class video lessons, Li shares her 4 favorite short stories, and every student will write their own 3-5 page short story inspired by an online comment, review, or obituary. (She provides a few favorites, or you can choose your own.)

Beginning writers can take this class to get started writing fiction, and experienced writers can take this class to try out new writing styles and get feedback on their work. It's perfect for writers, bloggers, literature lovers, and everyone who loves a compelling story.

Transcripts

1. Introduction: I always have this curiosity about people who are different from me and partly because I think they brought in my view and they show me things that I have never thought about or haven't thought through myself. So I think this is the first thing that drove me into writing was the curiosity about other people. My name is E Lee and I'm a writer of short stories and novels. I came to America from China in 1996 and I came to study science but I changed to writing because I fell in love with writing. I have published two collections of stories and two novels. I was a MacArthur Foundation Fellow in 2010 and the New Yorker named me one of those 20 under 40 writers to watch in America. I live in Oaklands, California and teach writing at University of California Davis. Every one of us lives at any moment multiple lives. You could be a mother, you could be a wife, you could be a student, you could be an artist but at any moment, you are wearing multiple hearts and also at any moment of your life, you're also living your history and your future. So you're never in your right in that one moment. So maybe you're walking down the street, getting a cup of coffee but what you're really thinking about is that conversation you have with your neighbor yesterday or a conversation with your mother 20 years ago. In a novel, you could spend a lot of time to explain each time point. But in a short story, you don't have that luxury, so you have to collapse all the time points into a single moment and I think that exerts a lot of pressure on the story and on the storytelling, on the characters. So that's why I love writing short stories. I also scientists all my life. I was a mathematics prodigy when I was in China and I was on a science track when I grew up. So there was no encouragement for me to become a writer and I have never considered myself a writer but I have always been a reader. Reading is the first thing a writer does. Oftentimes, we hear this saying that I writer is someone who is compelled to learn from reading and when we write a story, it's the same as when we tell a story. You asked for certain kind of effect. So if you tell a story and that you find funny and you tell to your friends and the effect is not there, you did not achieve your effect. They don't find it funny. They were baffled why you tell them the story. Then it's not a successful storytelling. So this course is more to develop the skill of how to achieve the effect that you want when you tell these stories. 2. Your Assignment: Write a Short Story: Some of you may think you are not a writer yet, which I would disagree, because everybody is a writer. Imagine you see something in the marketplace and you think to yourself, "I'm going to tell this to my friends next time I go to a party," or "I'm going to tell this to my husband when I get home." When you think about that, you are already creating a narrative. You're already thinking about how to tell the story to someone, and that's the beginning of storytelling. So that's the kernel of a writer. Of course, the real work is to how to put it down on the page. This is a fiction writing class, and specifically, this is a short story writing class. The class project is for you to develop one character, and to get to know that character very well and then to develop a second character and put the two characters in the situation. While you study both characters in that situation, you start to work on a group of supporting characters and eventually transform the situation into a full-line story. I'm going to give you three excerpts I found on the Internet. One is a Yelp comment on a grooming service. One is a reader's comment on New York Times website, and the last one is the beginning of the obit. So, I won't go over the details of all three of them because you will see in your assignments, but I'll give you the reason I choose these three. For a dog grooming service, the first line is, first, I have to preface this by letting you know up front that the my dog is an asshole. Right away, you get this character's voice. I'm so interested in his or her voice, so that's why I give you this whole comment from this customer and see if you can develop a character out of this comment. In the second choice, I took it from obit where a woman 21 years ago almost died but was saved by God as the obit said. It turns out God took care of it. So she survived. She lived down for 21 years. I really like that sentence, "It turn out God took care of it." So that's the second choice, but you have to think about it. In this case, who is the author of that obit? There are two characters in that open, the woman and the author of that obit. The third character choice, I took it from online comment on newyorktimes.com. Let me just read because this is just one line, "I wonder how many members of the United States Congress or the New York Times Editorial Board know what the cosine of pi over two is?" Right away, we get a sense of personality there, we get this person's voice. Again, this is fiction, you can make any kind of connection and so your imagination, and of course your understanding of life. So now, I want to put these two characters together as my first pair of characters. It's time for you to share your work in the gallery and to communicate with your fellow students and to enjoy their feedbacks, to use their feedbacks wisely for your revisions, and on the other hand also enjoyed your classmates stories and give them helpful feedback. Writing is a very lonely business, but writers should not make each other lonely. 3. What Is a Short Story?: Why does this matter to you? This seems a simple question but this is the most important question. If the story doesn't matter to you, it doesn't matter to the readers. If you don't invest your emotional energy and your creativity into the story, the reader can sense that and they won't be interested. So, that's the first question to ask. The second is why should the readers care about this story? Because sometimes you write a story you don't communicate with the readers and the readers look at the character and say I don't understand a single thing about these characters. I don't understand them and I cannot connect with them. We grieve similarly, we enjoy life similarly. So, you have to find a way to connect to your readers so they say, "I do care about these characters, I do care about the story." The one last question is how do you want the readers to care about your characters? That is the question about the effect you want to achieve. Do you want to surprise your readers? Do you want to make them sad? Do you want to make them happy? Sometimes there's a combination of effects. You want them to laugh and cry at the same time and some of the stories when the readers read them the first time, they may not have a strong reaction, but the next day they wake up in the morning, all of the sudden the story hits them really hard. That's also another effect and oftentimes that's the best story. A reader cannot forget that story after he or she is had in the morning. The basic information is it's fiction, it's not an essay, it's not a poem. It's a narrative and usually, we consider a full-on short story between 5-20 pages but it's not a set number usually a long story would be between 20-80 pages and there's that in between stage novella about 80-150 pages and beyond that you would consider it's a short novel or full length novel. But that's only one way to look at a story, it's the length, the space. Another way to look at the story is as I said before, that life is very complicated and we live in multiple moments. If you consider a novel, a cake, and a story is a piece of that cake but that doesn't mean a story is smaller than the whole novel. It means that you have to take a piece of that cake and within that piece, a reader can get the full essence of the full story. So, that's the challenge for short story writer is you're not only writing a slice of life, you are showing your readers through that slice of life, the whole life stories about your characters. So, for the class I also put out four short stories as outside reading. They're not required but I think they're interesting because you can learn a lot about storytelling. So, for Katherine Mansfield's Miss Brill, the reason I choose that story is there's only one character in the story and she's doing nothing which is actually not true. But if you look at the surface of that story this character is doing nothing, she's just sitting there. But we want to look at how Mansfield wrote above this character while doing nothing, while sitting here. She had a full range of emotions about the world and she has some interactions with the world and that interactions make her into a character. So, even though the story is about one moment of her life doing nothing, we actually can as readers we can see the whole life in front of us. There's a story called The Piano Tuner's Wives, written by my favorite writer William Trevor. The reason I choose that story is I think it's a very traditional plot. It's about triangle love story. If you think about it, that's the very basic plot, one man two woman or one woman two men. But the interesting thing about this story is there's a variation of that plot. So, one of the triangle, so one wife already deceased. So, the triangle was between a man and a current wife and a dead wife. The dead wife appeared in the story as a ghost not a real goals but the presence of that dead wife always exert pressure on the husband and wife. I choose that story because I think there are so many ways to write the traditional triangle story and this is one of the best examples. There's a story called You Make Your Own Life by another British master V.S. Pritchett. Again it's a triangle story. It's about one woman, two man. But that story has another variation. That story introduced the false character who's the narrator of the story. So, now we are seeing the triangle not from one of the characters involved but from an outsider who is an observer of this triangle. So, that's another way of telling stories. It's the same story different way of telling and the effects are different. The last story is a Peter Orner story called The Story of a Shoe. Again, it's a love story. It's a triangle story. It's between one man and two women. The interesting thing about that story is the whole story is the backstory that love story we don't get to hear about the love story. We only get to hear that one moment of their arguing and the woman was so mad she threw this shoe out of the window. But that's a one-page story and we only overheard that conversation but the reader can understand the whole dynamic between the man and the woman. So, that's a very effective way to say you don't have to give the whole back story you just give us one slice and the characters are alive on the page and the readers can use their imagination and their understanding to grasp the essence of the story. Fiction is about human beings and it's about the messiness of life. You've run into these really strange stories, sometimes you don't understand them. My one example I would like to give is I like to read orbits from newspapers and oftentimes they give the best stories. One time I saw this very short orbit about a dead man and there was one line said, "Survived by loving ex-wife." I thought this was the best sentence I've ever read for a long time because it gave a whole story that I wanted to create. What does it mean to be survived by a loving ex-wife? There's a relationship there that I wanted to explore. So, in fact I took that line and I started a story from there and it turn up to to become a novel. So see, that's where you get an idea you get a kind of your idea from somewhere and then you start to use your imagination to create the characters, the situations, and so from there you get a story. 4. Developing Characters: I think when you start with the character, you are starting with a real person. And as any anyone in the world we can't say, I know this person 100%. There's even someone close to you say, your mother, your spouse, your best friend, there's still secrets in them that you don't know. And writing fiction is to find those secrets, and to exert pressure on the character so they can reveal their secrets. That is why we start with characters. I always asked what does a character do for living? And another important question is, what kind of family does the character come from? So, I think if you can know as much as you can about the personal history, the family history, or even in our national history of a character, that will be very helpful. Who do you think the character is speaking to, when he or she is by himself or by herself? Does this character have a monologue with herself, or does this character talk to his mother even though she's already dead? So these are important questions because the one person a character talks to when the character is alone, shows me the most important relationship in his or her life. Does a character have to be likable? My answer is, no. Because, when you say I want to write a likable character, you are already putting out some map on this character. You're already directing our character to go one way rather than to be himself or herself. And another question students like to ask is, is it a good idea to fictionalize my own life? I would say yes and no. The reason is, when you fictionalize your own life, or people you know for instance, people from your life, often times your imagination is limited by the reality. And you would feel uncomfortable for instance, to betray certain characters, or you would be uncomfortable say for making a character too bad, or too nasty. So, there are all these feelings coming with, writing about real life characters. The key is do not take a shortcut when you write about someone you know or when write about yourself. If you know your sister very well, and you describe her in three sentences, the readers don't know her, the readers may not get to know her in those three sentences. Always read your fiction, always read your stories, as a reader, rather than as an insider. I'm going to give you a few prompts. The first step of the prompt, is to create your first character. Specifically, I want you to write an online dating profile of your character. The online dating profile doesn't have to be part of the story, but I want you to use this prompt to know your character, as best as you can. There are different things you want to get into the profile, for instance the basic information man woman sexuality, and age, income, those are thing sometimes I think that dating the online dating service would ask. But that is only a small part of the character. Then, there's the narrative about this character. And think about, what do the character wants to achieve in this profile? There's this embedded motivation of course when you put yourself out there on a dating service, you want to attract attention. But you want to attract certain kind of attention, you don't want to attract everybody's attention. You want to attract attention of those you want to meet. While you don't want attention from those who you don't want in your alive. So, all ready there are two ways to approach it. How do you make yourself both attractive and attractive in a specific way? And then there are other things to consider. For instance, narrative voice. Do you write your profile in first person or third person? Most people do in first-person, but once in a while I think people would do in third person which is baffling to me. Which probably tells a lot about his character, and what is the tone? Some people are very serious, some people try to be very funny, and the worst are those who try to be very funny, who tell jokes that are not funny. But all these things you can experiment. You can come up with different drafts, about the same character. In fact I do think people in real life probably spend a long time, you know getting draft and draft down about that profile. If that profile is really important for them. And soon you will have mental image of this character. I want you to be able to see her, or what to be able to hear him, or to be able to place him or her in the real world. So, that is the first step of this exercise. So, now you have to prompt. I think it's fair that for me to do the same prompt with you, and to follow the same steps, to create my own story to share with you. For the first step to online dating service. I created a profile, in first-person narrative, a woman's 35-year-old, and she talks about herself rather in a distant manner, and giving some very basic information. I'm a 35-year-old woman, I love reading, I love nature, I love horse riding, I love hiking, and I enjoy gathering of small group of friends, I love food, I love cooking, and this list could go on but nothing very specific about this person. So, if you read the profile, the first reaction is, "This person doesn't stand out. This person is an average person." But to me it's interesting, because it's not written by herself, but by her best friend. Of course I create that situation, that her best friend wrote profile for her. The reason is right away I have not only one character, but two. And then when you have two characters who have relationship. So, what is the relationship between her and her best friend? What's the motivation of her best friend to write that for her? How does this woman react to those profile her best friend wrote? Does she hated it, does she like it or does she not recognize herself in that profile? So, these questions give us a sense of who both women are, and you will also know her past relationship. Now, I do not only have one character, I feel that I have two characters. I really like to explore. 5. Transforming Situations into Stories: A story is made of situations. So, what is a situation? The easiest way to think about it, it is a specific moment in life and there's a conflict. So, I would call that a situation. For instance, a husband and wife have an argument in a restaurant. It's not a story, that's a situation. They have an argument over their child's education, there's conflict, there's interaction and action. The husband may just put the bill down very harshly or the wife is holding her own arms in a very cold way. There are different ways to show action and interactions. Or another situation, someone walks down the street and bumps into someone and spills a whole cup of coffee on this other person. That's a situation too. It's a chance encounter and there's a minor conflicts that could have gone major because the coffee spilled and there's also consequence, there is interaction, they have to talk to each other. Again, that's a situation where you can develop characters. These situations probably are everyday situations. Then, there are some situations that are really strange but mysterious. For instance, a friend of mine told me her little brother used to like to go to morgue and ask to see a corpse. So, the same young man, we could see him at a party or at a dance drinking or chatting with friends. But in this specific situation where he walked to the morgue and he asked to see a corp and the person there said, "Which corpse do you want to see?" He said, "Well, anything, anyone would do." The person at the morgue said, "No, you can't see anyone. You have to see a specific morgue." This is a very particular situation but I'm interested in that because it reveals a lot about this young man but everyday situation will not reveal that part of him. So, it's interesting to think about those situations that are not everyday situation but are fresh and gave us a fresh angle to see the characters. When you think about the situations, avoid dramatic moments or melodramas. If you write about car crash, so it's hard to write car crash because it's a dramatic events and most people react to that extreme drama the same way and it's hard to see them as individuals. It's hard for them to reveal their feelings in that dramatic moments unless you can find a specific way to write of high drama. You want to avoid those moments. We're going to make the leap from the situation to the story. I would like you to think about at least two supporting characters and introduce them to the story. Introduce them into different situations. So, your main character has opportunities to interact with different characters. It's important to think now that your character, your situation, is not confined in one time point or in one sick physical setting. Now, you can let it go and explore the whole history of a character, for instance, or the migration of a character from one place to another. So, don't feel that you have to only ride that tiny slice at the dinner table. No, now you can go back and forth. So, for the supporting characters of my protagonist. Now, we have the homecoming us the situation and the father daughter relationship. I would like to have a third character, a childhood friend as a supporting character and that's childhood friend has a family has children. The childhood friend of course was eager to see this woman returning home but the woman is reluctant to see her friends for reasons known to her but the story would step by step review. Partness, there's the partness between her and her childhood friends. But eventually, whether they meet or not, there is the conflict between those two. While there is conflict between these two, there's also the awareness of the current friend who has written the dating service profile for her. So now, we have three characters again; the woman, her current friend, and a childhood friend. So, Carmy was the current friend as her contemporary life and who she wants to be in her life at this moment. While Carmy was the childhood friend as her history, family history, personal history, and who she doesn't want to be but she cannot avoid being. There are conflicts between my protectionist, it was all three other characters. In this way, we get a good picture of who this woman is, what she wants, what she doesn't want, and what pains her, what attracts her? So, my situation is, after the mother stays, the young woman had to return to this hometown. Homecoming is always an interesting time because a person leaves home, a person changes, and change is gradual but homecoming is a dramatic time to show those changes. So, my situation is the young woman comes home and she was horrified by the line that her father put into the orbit saying, "I said turn up, God took care of it." It's not the story yet, it's only one moment of their interaction. But within this situation, we will get to know the father, and the daughter, and also the mother because even though the mother is dead, she's there as a character and the mother has to be on both character's minds and they have to talk about the mother as a way to avoid confronting each other. So,in that setting, again, I have three characters rather than two and I'm going to start to write about a father-daughter relationship, the relationship between the father and the mother, and the mother-daughter relationship, also that situation. 6. Writing Your Story: I don't believe in writer's block. I think it's a myth. No, set aside a story. I would write a story about how the father and the mother met. This is a way for me to understand the father and the mother, and what they were like when they were in the daughter's age. This is important to remember, a father is not always a father. A father used to be a young man. A father used to be a baby. These are side stories, but these are important because they not only shed a light to my protagonist but also these other characters. So, in that way, I think when you have a block, just set a story aside. Write a page or two of sketch of other characters, and sometimes you don't know maybe that story you try to write about the father's mother's meeting becomes an important part of the story. There are a couple more things I would like you to remember when you write your first draft. First, I always say, a character's problem should not be the story's problem. Say, you have a very quiet character, the story cannot be as quiet as the character. If your character doesn't talk and then your story takes up that personality and does not talk, the story cannot communicate with the reader and the reader will not respond. Or, say, you have a character who is neurotic, the story cannot be neurotic because the story still has the responsibility to convey the character's neuroticness to the readers in a clarified way. Or, your character maybe a boring character. Sometimes it's interesting to write a boring character, but the story cannot be boring. Otherwise, your readers will not read it. So, it's always a good tip to remember, a character's problem should not be a story's problem. Another thing that oftentimes happens in first draft is, a writer tends to be protective of a character. A writer, either doesn't want to reveal too much of the character to the readers, or the writer doesn't want the character to experience too much pain. If a character has to experience certain hardship, let her do that. Or, if a character doesn't say anything about her history, the story has to say it. Don't be protective. I'll give you one example. I just read the one story from a student. It's about a lonely woman and we don't know much about her. There's one sentence saying, "She occasionally slept with a coworker," and that's it. I said to her, "Well, your story is very protective of your character." A character can't just occasionally slept with a coworker without many different emotional consequences or actions. So, I want to see, I said, "How did they react to each other after that?" When she said occasionally, how often? These things you cannot just let it go saying my character only wanted occasional sex with a coworker and that's fine with the world, that's fine with her. No, you have to really push your character and say, "This is not okay," and let's see how we can push the story onto the character and make it work. Also, I have to remind myself not to make things too neat, not to be afraid of making mistakes and making a mess, and sometimes the scenes I've put into the story never really end up being in the story. A good example, I would like to give from first draft is, I wrote a story set in England and the editor said, "It's a good story except, can you not set it in England?" I was baffled because I thought if you took England out of the story, there was no story, but it turned out there's still a story and I reset the story and it was about a woman's trip to England. I reset the whole story to what happened before her trip to England. But if I did not have that first draft, if I did not make that mess of the trip to England, I would not have the character. I would not have the story. So, don't be afraid of writing a mess at this moment. Think about how you treat drama. Either put the drama before the story happens, where half the story lead to that drama without having to spend too much time on the drama and avoid defining your characters in psychological terms or physical terms. 7. Revising and Workshopping: I love revision. Actually, revision is my most favorite part of writing. If you look at this way, when you have a blank page, you have to create everything. But when you revise, you already have a structure, you already have the characters. It's like you already have a scaffold of house and now it's really time to work on the details of that house to make a real house. So, I always treat it as a fun thing to do. First of all, all the basic information have to be fact checked. But you will be surprised how many times people got the mass wrong in a story. Always check the mass, check their background. Make sure their physical feature doesn't change so the story, that's simple and basic. It's more like a fact checking process. Does each sentence add something? Does each sentence carry some weight? A sentence has to do something for the story rather than is just a filler. The sentence cannot be just to get you from one thing to the next. So, I just read a student's story where two people, a man and a woman sit there and talk. They keep lighting the cigarettes, putting the cigarettes hot. Lighting it again, put it out. In some circumstances that that action of lighting cigarettes may have some significance, but unfortunately, in those incident, those sentences are there just to fill in the space because I sense the author doesn't know how to get the action going, how to get the dialogue going. In that case, I think everything about the cigarette has to be cut. So always ask yourself, is this sentence doing it's job? If not, I don't need it. Avoid stage direction. This oftentimes comes with style logs. For instance, he looks at her or she smiles at him or he frowns, he shakes his head, she nodes. These stage directions are not important because what's important in that dialogue is what the characters say. We should be able to understand the characters more from what they say than the stage direction of what they flock or they frug or they smirk, these things don't add any new understanding to the characters. Dialogues are action. They're not there to give information. That's a common thing people will do. When they have a dialogue, the whole back history would come from the dialogue. For instance, someone calls a doctor, said doctor so and so, I'm the daughter of so and so. The doctor said, "How's your father doing?" Yesterday, when I went to see him he had chosen this and this. "Did he take this medicine or this?" Part of it is a lot of information is already known to the characters and you do want the characters to use the dialogue as a way to explain the backstories to the readers. So never give information through dialogue, information is given through narrative and dialogues are spoken for people to understand the characters. Avoid summarizing backstories as long narrative. As I said, every character has family history, personal history. Sometimes, a writer feels he or she has to give everything about the past to the reader. No, we don't. Actually, one sentence maybe enough. For instance, I just read another student's story about someone adopted from Korea and there was a long summarization of that history. But this one sentence had really worked. He said, "His birth mother is everything his adopted the mother is not." I think that sentence very aptly summarizes this young man's emotional state. In that sense, the long summary is not important, that one sentence is more important. Another thing to remember is where you want to meet the reader. Where you want the story to meet the reader. There are two tendencies I noticed when student write the story. One is they don't give enough information. There are a lot of mysteries. There are a lot of unsaid things than only known to the author, but not to the readers. In that sense, the story is not a story yet, it's private writing, it's only for the author, but the story doesn't meet the reader, the reader can not reach the story. The other tendency is to over explain things and overreach and every time something happens the narrator would explain again what it means to the character, what it means to the story. We don't need that because you need to trust your reader's intelligence. You need to trust that you are readers like to meet you in the middle rather than being explained. Because reading is also a way to imagine. If you explain everything, your readers don't have to imagine and there's no joy in that process. The next one is about plot twist. I would be really wary about plot twists and be careful how you put a plot twist into the story. An important rule to remember is even if it's a plot twist, it has to be inevitable and when it happens the readers would say, "Ah, I've always wondered if it will happen, rather than what? Why does this happen? So, one example I will give as I just read a student's story. So, it was about a man and a woman and they're having an affair. At the end of story, out of nowhere the man's daughter and the woman's lover both showed up at the apartment and all four of them started to have this argument. The twist to me, he wanted to put in this, the lover showed up. The lover was never a character in the story and that twist is just to surprise us not to make it believable. A good example is William Trevor story, The piano tuner's wife. There's a tiny plot twist, very tiny, about a second wife starting to lie. We did not expect it, but then when we read it again, we realize it's actually inevitable. She has to lie because she has to make a new world for herself and her husband. So, those are the plot twist not big plus twists, but inevitable plot twist. Don't throw in plot twist randomly because the readers get tired. They don't want to be on a roller coaster. There are real suspenses and forced suspenses. The best way to think about it as the real suspense is you know something's going to happen and the character doesn't know. The suspense is you're watching this character walk into that fate. So, that's actually different than what we usually think about suspense as we don't know it's going to happen and all of sudden it happens. In that sense, again, that reads like a twist that we're surprised, but that's it, we don't feel a lot of emotional weight, but if a character doesn't know he is going to say, be trapped in this situation while you see already that he's going to be trapped and there's no way out, then when you watch him go into that situation and that's the time when you feel the suspense for him. The good way to think about it is to frontload all the information so we're on the same page. Reading is not for us to find what information is being withheld, reading is for us to have all the key information and then to understand the characters and to watch them in action. To watch them to how to solve their conflicts, do not laugh at your character, love with them. So what I mean is, as a narrator, as an author, you can not feel superior to your characters. If a character has flaws and we all have flaws, there's no perfect person, you cannot laugh at that flaws, but you can make us feel that we are as flawed as that character and we are laughing with this character at ourselves. So, in one sentence is nobody is superior to another person and we cannot have the judgment and an author, a storyteller, especially cannot have a judgment coming into the story. 8. Final Thoughts: Publishing and Inspiration: So now, we have worked hard creating a protagonist, creating other characters, creating conflict situations, transforming situations into story, first draft, revision, revision again, revision again, revision again. Now it's time to ask that question, When do you know a story is done? It's never an easy question to answer because different writers have different ways to approach that. Some writers I now spent years to realize a story and they put it aside, and come back, they put it aside again, and it may take them 10 years to finish one story. Other writers are faster, they finish a story and they do some revisions, and they call it complete story. So, it depends on how you feel about a story, it also depends on your working habits. For me, I always ask, "Can I add more things to the story? Can I make it better? Or is one more draft going to make it worse?" Sometimes revisions can take life out of the story and I often times see that in very accomplished writers because they over revise, and whatever life is in that story tends to be taken up, and becomes craftily polished, but a little bit less lifelike. So, when you ask yourself, "Can I do one more thing for the story?" The answer is, there's nothing more I can do for the story, then the story is finished. When you have a finished story students ask, "How do you publish a story?" Most writers start with literary magazines and journals. A good way to research them is to find what kind of writers they publish, what kind of stories they publish. Find that one magazine you really want your story to be in and start from there. Now, just a couple reminders, it's time for you to share your work in the gallery, and to communicate with your fellow students, and to enjoy their feedbacks, to use their feedbacks wisely for your revisions. On the other hand, also enjoy your classmates stories, and give them helpful feedback. Writing is a very lonely business, writers should not make each other lonely.