Short Stories: Writing/Structure exercises

Hi guys. A couple of my writer friends gave a writing prompt and we’re to write short stories afterwards.
I got the idea that this could be good for the writers in the Dramatica forums. With these, we could participate, critique, and ultimately figure out storyforms as well.
Here’s a format I suggest for submissions( if anyone has a better format, please feel free to use it :slight_smile:)

Length: Max 1500 words.
Popular non-Dramatica Genre(optional):


Post one. :slight_smile:
Although, 1500 while a decent length for short stories is long for most people to give critique.

I think we x-posted.


Hi guys. So I’ll go first with what I wrote for the group yesterday.

Length: Max 1472 words.
Prompt: This was supposed to be the happiest day of my life.
Popular non-Dramatica Genre(optional): ? Slice of life ?
My first attempt at the female pov.

It’s August the 3rd; our 35th anniversary. Marcus’ll be here soon and he’s spending the night so I’m giddy all over. I wasn’t one of those early birds to nest, I mean, finding love at 38 wasn’t in the pipeline, but boy was I lucky. They say you’ll know the right one- if you’re fortunate enough to meet em, that is. Don’t ask me how I knew, but the moment our eyes locked in that barn 40 years ago, he was mine to keep forever.
Marcus has always had a way with things y’know. Like he see’s deep into you.
He’s looker too: tall, tanned, and armed with a killer texan smile. But that ain’t all, he inherited that strong, square jaw from his grandfather. Still makes an old gal feel hot and safe all at once. If I had to do it all over again, I’d pick him in a heartbeat.

Thinking about our story sometimes, helps me push through the pain in my joints and my sides. It’s been three long years and this damned leukemia ain’t letting up. Just a heads up: my kidneys are busted. The doctors say I’ve got a few weeks left to live.
Don’t feel bad for me though, I wouldn’t.
I got to have Marcus and the kids. They’re are all grown, and Joe’s just completed his thesis at Harvard. So you see, they’re doing great!

I got my blood cleaned today, so that means I get to eat whatever the hell I want, needles be damned. I have an old habit of cracking myself up, you see. Ever seen one of those dialysis needles? If you’re still around come Wednesday, slip by the female ward and see how gung-ho I get when try to stick me.

My room’s on the third floor. It isn’t so big, but it’ll do. Nurses have been nice enough to help set up the dinner table for our special night. Heaven bless them, they even helped order special service from Francesco’s. I really love Francesco’s pasta, and Marcus doesn’t mind at all, even though he’s a raving carnivore. If it helps, here’s a little background: I’m a mutt. Mom had some Sicilian blood, and dad grew up some place in Rome and then Africa. That makes me 3/8ths italian, no?

It’s 8’o’clock and I’m all dolled up. Jessie, our eldest daughter, got me a nice black dress from the Real-Real. She was also thoughtful enough to add a sexy black wig to go with the dress. Y’know one of the short ones like that cute Caribbean singer- Rhianna- wears on stage. Who says an old gal can’t slut it up once in a while for her man?

My anxiety is in full gear when a loud roar of girlie laughter fills the hallway.
“That’s not true,Mr Dent” purrs one of the nurses.
“I kid you not, ladies, cross my heart” ,Marcus adds.
The rest of the girls at the nursing station laugh at his jokes. I can’t help it, I smile in approval. He’s a charmer, my Marcus.
I ready myself and writhe a little, as I adjust the dress, smoothening it out a little.
I’m caught off guard by a faint, considerate knock on the door.
“May I come in” he asks
I steal a quick glance at the mirror to my left before I bid him in.
You’d think that after 35 years the butterflies go away; they don’t! My insides rise and dip like an evening wave in spring.
Marcus lets himself in. He looks up at me with those piercing texan eyes of his. I melt at the sight of him, the smell of him. Streams of lavender and an oaky scent caress my nose as they usher in his smile. I tend to get a little poetic when I’m with him.

His fine grey hairs, wrinkly shaven face and strong reedy arms are a sight to behold.
I know, his visage might not do things to you, I get that. But it sparks a primal flame in me, so severe it could char the Sun.

“Bianca”, he calls, voice gentle as a summer.

“Marcus”, I answer, my voice hitting a higher pitch than I intend.

One of the many side effects of radiation therapy.

He rushes over to me, wrapping me in himself. Oh man, he’s so warm and comforting. Like my own big teddy.
I melt into him, feeling my worries drain away like a sponge leaking out.

To my utter shock, several “awe’s” and “awns” tear through the room from the front door. Those busy-body nurses can’t help themselves.
Who coo’s like that?

To be honest, who says that it doesn’t feel good to show-off sometimes? These little girls need a lesson or two about romance.
Long and short I’m in the arms of my Marcus and it feels damn good.
I motion to break away, but before we turn, I lean over to the girls and give a sly wink.
Yup. Lesson 101 complete.

After a long hard kiss, Marcus hands me some flowers: Tulips- my favorite.

“Honey, you shouldn’t have”, I whine, like a little girl, but he simply reaches out and kisses me again.
Gosh, those eyes! I shiver at the thought of how this night might end. Old gals like it too, y’know.

My husband ushers me to the dinner table and pulls out a chair for me.
“The lighting’s so good B” he comments.
“How’d you pull it off?”
I reply with a shrugg and a wry smile. Thats my Jessie! Bless you child.

We’re old school - Marcus and me. We lean more to the old forms of romance: him opening car doors for me, walking hand in hand while taking a stroll. Y’know, old people stuff.

Our evening couldn’t be better.

We laugh and giggle. He teases, and I threaten him with eternal sexual bondage after I die. He laughs at that last joke a bit too seriously. He’s good at hiding his emotions, but I notice eyes glaze over ever so slightly.
35 years of marriage is a long time. You become an observer of sorts. You get to know things about your spouse, things even they themselves might no be aware of. Certain tells when their mood shifts, or the sudden stiffness when they’re holding out on you.
My little joke struck home, and it pains me to that it did. Women, we are …a complicated bunch. Sometimes we might inflict pain just to see where we stand in a relationship. To get a sense of how things are progressing.

Marcus signals to the Francesco’s waiter.
“Desserts please”
A few scurries here and there, dessert is served. It’s a double cream sundae with nuts and a glazed chocolate toppings.

“It’s gorgeous” I say.

I catch a glimpse of Marcus as he stares hard at me. The lights begin to dim and Marcus fumbles akwardly into his right pocket.
He fishes out a tiny blue box then he shuffles on over beside me.

He’s on one knee now.

“Bianca ,Glenda, B, for 35 years you’ve tolerated my silliness, and my pathetic attempts at spaghetti-bolognaise. You’ve given me three beautiful kids and an overdose of …”

I giggle akwardly at this point. I feel my eyes glaze over and my vision getting blurry. It’s a hot feeling, and my heart’s pounding.
What is this man doing? I stare, thinking.

“B, would you do me the honor of marrying me all over again?”

The heat seems to be spreading all over now . I feel my heart pounding like it’s gonna burst, and strangely enough, some discomfort in my sides.

“Please say yes”, he pleads with his pretty smile.

I stretch out my hand. It’s trembling. Perhaps I’m too excited. Marcus, slips in the ring. And it’s got a lot of sparklies.

I love diamonds.

“Yes!” I answer. Again, my tone a pitch higher than I’d like.

In the thrill of the moment I get up and try to hug him but my arms feel heavy. They won’t move!

Dark boarders close in on my vision.
I hear a loud thud as I plomp onto the floor. But it isn’t painful.

“B?!” Marcus cries out. He reaches for me and begins screaming out for help.
His voice too is getting fainter.
My vision is all but gone now. I can’t see anything and I can barely hear.

I sense the pressure of a mask going over my face. I also sense my head bobbing wildly. Perhaps the little nurses are trying to bring me back.

I hear Marcus voice. It’s so faint, I struggle to make sense of his words, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this” Marcus screams.

I try to smile, but I sense only spasms around my lips.
I should be panicking right now but I feel, strangely at peace. At least I got to say yes all over again.

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This is sweet. What kind of feedback are you looking for? Keep in mind I’m an editor for a living and I will give you exactly what you ask for. :stuck_out_tongue: If you want general stuff, I can do that or I can be pretty specific–your call.


Slay me! :grin: Deep is great.

This was a first draft with a few line edits. So your feedback is gonna be a gold mine for improving my craft, as well as for other writers in the forum as well.

Thanks for your offer. I truly appreciate it.

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  • Okay, I’m gonna start with imho, you failed the prompt. It was SUPPOSED to be the happiest day of my life, which implies that there was unhappiness to be found. There wasn’t. It was a happy day for Miss B.

  • There was no tension/conflict in this. Nothing to pull the reader down the page. It’s missing narrative drive.

  • There’s a lot of repetitive detail in her happiness with Marcus. You need that word count elsewhere

  • The “femaleness” of the voice feels off to me. This is subjective on my part, but I figured it bore mentioning. Counterpoint to this criticism is that the voice is consistent. Don’t lose that part.

  • I hear Marcus voice. It’s so faint, I struggle to make sense of his words, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this” Marcus screams. <-- This is a POV bobble. His voice is barely audible to her but she says he screams.

  • Even as a slice of life piece there should be a goal, which will give you your ending Success Good/Failure Bad, etc. Some possible goals, to bang her hubby one last time, to know that her time is now and not in several weeks and to make her passing easier for her husband. That kind of thing. It will give the piece more omph.

  • Lastly, I’d say use @jhull 's advice and apply a quad to the piece. If there’s one here, I’m not recognizing it.



This is why writers DEFINITELY need an editor! Thanks a lot.
Your feedback is very important.
I agree to failing the prompt. :grin:. My rationale was to go against it, but I still failed it so there’s that. :grin:
Secondly, I employed Kishotenketsu. My aim? To see if the piece might still entertain even if there is no obvious conflict. So yh, you found me out there too. :grin: A nice experiment on my part.

Thanks for your feedback on the voice. I’m not a woman and am also quite heavily Male mental sexed so I’d need to work harder on that. Although I must confess, I tried to cheat by including the bit about women wanting to feel a sense of progress line. Stole that from Chris and Melanie. Lol.

About the POV bobble. THANKS!!! Was in too deep, and that one slipped by. :grin:

So tbh I started with a quad, then I got lost in the bloody thing. So yeah, I’d definitely be paying more attention to the quads (or at least incorporating them in the re-writes)

Thanks for your solid, solid feedback.


Well, a couple of thoughts. If you want to use Kishotenketsu, I highly recommend (at least for American audiences) that you use unknowns/unanswered questions to draw the reader down page rather than conflict. So, don’t tell us who is coming. Don’t tell us what’s for dinner, make it a revealed surprise. Don’t tell us what she’s sick with. Don’t tell us she’s dying. Just imply everything.

Second, a quick glance over the structure chart and the Memories, Innermost Desires, Impulsive Response, and Contemplation (IN THAT ORDER) jumped out at me a good fit for your piece. Using those as guide of things to shed as death approaches to be at peace when you slip from this world.

Just some thoughts.


Precisely the Quad I chose to create this. This was not the MC quad though. It was the Relationship Quad. So you’re senses are quite right.

I don’t see don’t see how you failed it. It’s a writing prompt. It’s meant to prompt you to write. You wrote.


That really depends on what you expect a prompt to help you accomplish. If it’s just get words on the page then you’re correct, but most writers I know use that type of writing for skillz practice.


Thanks @Greg. Thinking about it that way is nice also.
I get both perspectives though. :grin:.

Thanks guys.


So if anyone is inclined to giving the exercises a go, please do.

It doesn’t matter the format. Prose or screenplay.

Let’s see this as a place to polish craft also.

Cheers guys.


Huh. I guess I never considered that one would need practice including a given subject matter. Now I really hope that Stephen King has a sheet of paper tacked above his desk that says “favorite summer break” and every time he finishes a novel, his wife is like “well, this one is about an evil space spider clown that eats children” and then he’s like, “yeah, over summer break. I feel like I was really close this time.” :joy::yum: