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Symposium 4

Great Power Competition and the Return of Inter-State Conflict?

Wednesday 4 March

2020

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Understanding short story military writing

Linking short stories together works really well for military writing.

 

People have written full-length books on what a short story cycle is but, in essence, it’s a collection of linked short stories with narratives specifically composed and arranged with the goal of creating an enhanced or different experience when reading the group as a whole as opposed to its individual parts (Wikipedia).

 

Chapters of a novel cannot usually stand alone, whereas stories in collections can be read independently and even combined so that there is a degree of interdependence. 

 

According to Rolf Lundén in his 1999 book ‘The United Stories of America: Studies in the Short Story’, there are four types of cycle:

 

1. The Cycle: in which the ending resolves the conflicts brought up at the beginning.

 

2. The Sequence: stories are linked to those before it with no cumulative story binding them.

 

3. The Cluster: the discontinuity between stories is more significant than their unity.

 

4. The Novella: unrelated stories brought together by a frame story and narration.

 

Military writing could be any one of the four types of short story cycle.  What is important is that military writing lends itself to short anecdotes – especially those that are amusing or about a real incident or person. 

 

Unlike reading novels, where we become a long-term tenant until the end, short stories attract backpackers who stay for only a short time, move on and maybe come back again on the way home, if the hospitality was welcoming.

 

With today’s demand for quick information and humans being inherently short story enthusiasts, short stories are back in fashion. 

 

Deciding on which short story cycle suits your writing best will depend on what story you are showing us (remember showing, not telling).  Are you using examples (stories) to illustrate a larger argument (cycle); are you using stories chronologically (sequence); are your stories examples of one-off events (cluster); are you trying to prove a larger story by looking at isolated situations (novella)?

 

Understanding short story cycles can help you with your book structure and to refine your argument further.

 

 

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