The Forever Intangible Feedback: "It Needs Something More"

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Lately, I've been reading through flash fiction entries for the WOW! Women on Writing contest. And it always gives me insights into my own writing as I read. 

One area I stumbled across was after reading a couple of stories. There were some minor flaws but the overall feeling I had about it was, "It needs something more."

Have you ever felt that about a story you were reading? Whether it's your own or someone else's? Maybe it reminds you too much of another one you read. Maybe the plot didn't grab your attention. Maybe the ending was weak.

Sometimes, though, it's intangible. There's nothing that makes you want to go back to it and read it again.

I've written my share of stories where I knew there was something missing in my work. How do you go back to something where you really don't know what's the problem?

In those cases, I discover there's a few issues in my stories:

  • Weak Character Development: In a short story I had completely revised last year (that eventually got published!), I realized my character didn't have a strong motivation. And when you think of it, we all have one. Even if it doesn't directly impact our day-to-day, it's there. It's a motivator even if it's unrelated to the immediate problem. If you aren't sure of what gets your character up in the morning or what keeps them striving forward, that's something to think about during your revision process.
  • Weak Plot: If there's no real tension or sense of overcoming or basically some kind of rising and falling action and climax in a story, that's a definite problem. Think back to what's motivating your character. That's often a starting point to figuring out what's at the core of the story.
  • The Ending is...Eh: I feel like the ending of the story is the hardest to write and revise. Usually in the revision process, I've become exhausted with rewriting all the stuff beforehand that I rush through revising the ending. But, it's worth looking at. Aside from asking people to critique your work, consider giving yourself some distance. Go back to it after some time has passed. If you read your ending and think to yourself, "Gee, that's it?" Consider going back.

Nicole Pyles is a writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her short stories have appeared in Sky Island Journal, Arlington Literary Journal, The Ocotillo Review, and The Gold Man Review. Follow her blog at World of My Imagination or her substack, Three Things on a Saturday Night.


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