I’ve been querying agents regarding my Alaskan-themed story collection, Glaciers, and had a brief nibble that concluded in the agent telling me my stories don’t have the “arc needed to make a short story work.”
I’ve been told a lot of stuff about my stories, but I’ve never been told they don’t have arcs. Along with THIS I was thinking a lot over the weekend about these kinds of critiques, you know the vague one’s that don’t really express anything concrete or give you any direction of how it can be fixed. This happens a lot, I know, because editors, agents, and undergrads in your writing classes don’t have a lot of time they want to spend on your work. I get that. But is it being helpful to say anything if this is the kind of critique you’re going to give?
But that’s the secondary question. The primary question is what is an arc, in relation to a story, if not the movement from where the story starts to where the story ends? Just by starting a story and ending a story have we not created an inherent arc, even if it’s a crappy one?
Which is why I think this agent was telling me my stories have crappy arcs. But at least I don’t build crappy arks, ’cause then we’d all be in big trouble when the flood comes…
(By the way, I’m not here to whine, or bash on anyone, I’m truly interested in the question of narrative arcs. I just happen to be kind of a smartass.)