Rewriting History: Giving Alternate Realities a Literary Twist

In the vast realm of storytelling, short stories stand as unique gems that captivate readers with their brevity and depth. These compact narratives have the remarkable ability to transport us to different dimensions of imagination, capturing emotions, characters, and scenes within limited word counts. While many writers throw their hands up at a compact word limit, we think there is lots to love about these little narrative nuggets.

The Art of Condensation

Short stories are like poetry in prose, distilling the essence of a larger tale into a condensed form that demands precision and economy of words. Try not to think of this compression as restricting creativity; instead, consider it an opportunity to choose each word carefully, ensuring that every sentence contributes to the narrative’s impact.

Think of a short story as a snapshot—a single, evocative moment that lingers in the reader’s mind. This limitation challenges authors to convey a complete arc, from introduction to climax to resolution, within a confined space. Consider it the literary equivalent of painting an intricate masterpiece on a small canvas, where every brushstroke must carry meaning.

Creating Vivid Characters in Limited Space

The characters in a short story are the heartbeats that make the narrative come alive. Unlike in novels, where authors can dedicate pages to character development, short story writers must forge a connection between readers and characters fast, and with maximum impact.

Consider the power of small gestures, quirks, or carefully chosen lines of dialogue. Can you give your character a way of speaking that leaves them etched in a readers mind? Using a few carefully chosen words, it’s possible to reveal a character’s fears, dreams, and vulnerabilities. Readers should feel like they’ve known these characters for ages, even if they’ve only spent a handful of paragraphs with them.

The Mastery of Endings

Crafting a satisfying ending is an art form in itself, and short stories demand an even greater level of finesse. Concluding a story within a limited word count requires a balance between closure and lingering questions, leaving readers both satiated and contemplative.

A powerful ending can resonate for days, making readers reflect on the story’s themes and implications. It might be a shocking twist, a bittersweet revelation, or an open-ended question that lingers like a haunting memory.

The Unseen World Between the Lines

Short stories are a playground for subtext and symbolism. In their brevity, they encourage authors to weave layers of meaning beneath the surface narrative. Every object, every interaction, every choice—these elements can carry weight far beyond their literal interpretations.

The reader’s mind becomes an active participant in uncovering these hidden meanings. Through implication and suggestion, authors guide readers toward a deeper understanding of the story’s themes and messages. It’s a dance between what’s said and what’s left unsaid—a dance that can lead to profound revelations.

Embracing the Unknown

One of the most thrilling aspects of reading short stories is their ability to surprise. Within a few pages, readers can be transported to fantastical worlds, introduced to unconventional characters, and thrown into unexpected situations.

Short stories encourage authors to experiment, to break away from conventions, and to explore uncharted territories. They invite us to experience the unfamiliar and expand our literary horizons.

The Reader’s Role

Reading a short story is a collaborative act. The author provides the framework—the words on the page—but it’s the reader’s imagination that breathes life into the narrative. Short stories invite readers to fill in the gaps, to visualise settings, to hear characters’ voices, and to feel the atmosphere.

This interplay between the written word and the reader’s mind results in a deeply personal and interactive reading experience. Each reader brings their unique perspective, enriching the story with their own emotions and interpretations.

The Lasting Impact

Despite their brevity, short stories often leave an indelible mark on readers. A well-crafted short story can haunt your thoughts for days, even weeks or years, after reading. Its impact lingers, like the faint echoes of a beautiful melody.

In a world where time is a precious commodity, short stories provide an easy escape that fits into the busiest of schedules. They offer a moment of reflection, a brief journey into another world, and a chance to experience the magic of storytelling in its most distilled and potent form.

In the realm of literature, short stories are not diminutive versions of longer narratives; they are a distinct and potent form of art. Their brevity challenges authors to create worlds that resonate deeply within constrained spaces. They invite readers to partake in the creative process, and their impact is felt long after the words have been read.

So, whether you’re a writer seeking to hone your skills or a reader looking for a quick escape, dive into the world of short stories. Discover the boundless imagination that can be unfurled within a handful of pages, and unveil the power of crafting these mini worlds of imagination. Here’s a list of ten truly iconic short stories to get you started.

  1. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
  2. “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson
  3. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter)
  4. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  5. “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant
  6. “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell
  7. “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway
  8. “The Lady or the Tiger?” by Frank R. Stockton
  9. “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
  10. “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor

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Finding Way- The Industry Flexes Through Covid

In March this year, when the world moved into its first Covid- 19 lock-down, none of us could have imagined the devastation on the Theatre Industry. As we tentatively stepped back out into the European summer, we didn’t foresee we’d be back for a second lockdown as we head toward the new year.

And while the Theatre industry has run perilously close to collapse over recent months, and there is still concern over the viability of the Christmas pantomime season, companies have found ways to persevere and keep their doors open, often in unexpected ways. Theatres through the course of the year have been able to create and survive, whether that be taking work out of the theatres and into the public domain, digitising performances or using empty theatre space for the good of the community.

The Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre have responded to the pandemic by taking their theatre outdoors for this Christmas season. Their socially distanced creation Present is a set of four ‘handcrafted, pop-up’ Christmas Shows, each one a unique performance that will be held on the doorstep or back gardens of community nominated Dundonians.

Oxford-based Creation Theatre will be taking their work digital after being awarded £165k in funding. They will create a digital repertory company and a new online theatre platform including the development of projects that aim to “pave the way for new approaches in the industry”.

Some companies with empty theatres have found ways to raise income while helping the community. Manchester’s Lowry Theatre has set up a temporary court to help ease the legal backlog while their theatre was empty. Dubbed the ‘Nightingale Court’, the venue has acted as an additional Magistrates’ Court to deal with excess cases in the criminal justice system, and in doing so provided income for the gallery and theatre.

Another great example is Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, which has converted its traditional theatre space into a hub for the Highland Council to deliver humanitarian aid as well as turning over their box office system to become a community helpline.

Some theatres have been able to live stream their performances, allowing at least some of their annual programme to go ahead, albeit digitally, including the upcoming Philip Ridley’s Poltergeist at Southwark Playhouse on 20–21 November.

The good news is that in this lockdown rehearsals can still go ahead, meaning shows in development should be ready to go live as soon as the lockdown is set to end December 2nd. Stephen Fry and a group of actors will celebrate the reopening with a charity performance of a semi-staged rehearsed reading of The Understudy at the Palace Theatre on the 7th & 8th December with proceeds going to Acting For Others, the Equity Charitable Trust and The Theatre Development Trust, run by the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre.

Let’s hope this ingenuity, flex and collaboration will keep our spirits and the curtain up and see theatre companies thrive again in 2021 and beyond.

Also by Fiona Georgiou-Hunt

History Has Its Eyes on the Disney+ Masterstroke

Close Up From A Distance; Is “In Camera” The Future of Live Theatre?


History Has It’s Eyes on Disney+
Cover image courtesy of Denys Nevozhai

There’s not been much to shout about for any of us who work in the theatre, film or TV industry since the global pandemic took hold. But with every constraint, there are unexpected opportunities that arise, and for Disney+, a world full of children out of school and stuck at home saw many parents subscribe to the channel as a way to entertain/occupy/babysit the kids.

In April, the Guardian reported the Disney+ had reached 50 million global subscribers, a mere five months after launch.

This is a phenomenal achievement, but with its suite of titles from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, Disney+ was bound to win the hearts and minds of bored kids and stressed parents.

A slightly obtuse inclusion in the programming line-up is the incredible collection of National Geographic content, arising from what was originally a partnership between the National Geographic Society and 21st Century Fox, and later became a part of Disney+ after its majority share acquisition of 21st Century Fox in March, 2019.

But now, as lockdown begins to ease in Europe and globally, questions of longevity arise, as certainly many of my friends and colleagues with children have expressed their angst that after seventeen weeks of lockdown, their kids have pretty much exhausted the Disney + library.

So then came the masterstroke. On the 3rd July Disney broadcast Hamilton, the original production of the critically acclaimed Broadway musical.

My social feeds lit up as my theatre friends and colleagues from across the globe shared their delight. The brilliance of this programming move is Disney+ brings together an unusual collection of viewers under one, strangely homely umbrella; the kids, the kids at heart, the parents of kids, the nature lovers, and now the arts nuts.

Once hooked by Hamilton, there are other gems on the platform for musical theatre lovers, including the 2014 version of Into the Woods, with Anna Kendrick, Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep, the Tony award winning musical Newsies, plus old favourites like Annie, Mary Poppins and Sound of Music. While TV broadcast of musicals has often been a retrospective experience, a historical journey into the fun shows of generations past, the inclusion of Hamilton brings the programming right into the present day. It’s a refreshing change, as good, current theatre shows are generally absent from mainstream broadcast, for obvious reasons. And while there is always an argument that broadcasting theatre goes against the very essence of live performance, my personal view is that the reach of mainstream broadcast only encourages live theatre going.

There’s no doubt about the smart piecing together of niche audiences from Disney+. Let’s hope Hamilton is just the start of continued great arts content.


Also by Fiona Georgiou-Hunt

Close Up From A Distance; Is “In Camera” The Future of Live Theatre?

The Enigma of Ideas

A common question around writing is “Where do you get your ideas from?” I guess ideas  usually come from being somewhere -a place or an event where I’ve been immersed in a situation or a destination. So, the stimulus of an environment helps. Then I tend to ask myself the ‘What if” question. What if x happened here right now, or what would happen if that person over there wanted z etc. Once I’ve got a rough idea of something that sparks an interest, I then play with the idea, trying to make it more resonant.

Robin Mukherjee wrote in Art of Screenplays, that you need to test your idea for that deep resonance. “Do you feel something move in the deeper, darker aspects of your understanding of what it is to be human….if (so) then it is likely to make others respond in the same way.,,if not….focus the beam a bit more.”I think this quote is really key. If I can’t find something about an idea that connects, I can’t get writing. It’s hard to explain and it’s a gut feeling, but it’s really important.

But, it doesn’t mean you throw out all ideas until you get that once that chimes with you. If you’ve got the semblance of an idea, just keep digging a little deeper to see if you can hit on something.

What Constitutes A Script?

In filmmaking, there is much debate over the script, what it constitutes and who owns it. The inherent difference between a script and a novel or a play is that, ultimately, the script is a blueprint, a starting point, and inevitable collaboration, compared to the sanctity of the play or novel.

That understood, it is still hard not to get riled up reading the first chapter of Mara’s text on Autuer theory.  While interesting to understand that the “ politique des auteurs was itself a response to a deeper problem that still has implications for film workers today: namely the separation of conception and execution”, my first question was, why is this a phenomenon, when in comparison to arguably it’s closest artform, playwriting, no such phenomena occurs?

While cognisant and accepting that a screenplay is a looser and less absolute form than a  theatre play, it still seems a giant leap from the reverence of the playwright in the theatre world  to the subversion the  writer  and exultation of the Director in screenwriting.

A quick Google search of Autuer exemplars shows a pictorial gallery of present and past middle-aged white men- Anderson, Tarantino, Scorsese, Wilder, Nolan, Hitchcock -it’s hard to ignore the gender politics here. So is Autuer theory  just a construct of Hollywood elite, a flexing of their power to  portray their talent as more far-reaching than it may actually be ? It reminds me of conceptual artists like Jeff Koons, whose works are often physically created by a team of artists employed by Koons, but the artist concept  and kudos belongs to Koons himself. The difference between this example and the auteurs is to me the hub of the argument -it’s about here the story idea is conceived.

For me the fundamental argument starts before a script evolves at all. At the beginning of any creative process, an idea emerges from somewhere. In the case of the screenwriter, it is a story idea that almost always originates from the writer. The writer then brings that idea to life, then shares it with collaborators to be brought to life. Would the autuers have projects at all if every writer decided to put their pens down?

Heavy Artillery.

WRITING ABOUT ART: Heavy Artillery is the latest exhibition from White Rabbit Gallery, as founder and director Judith Neilson continues to build her legacy of collecting and exhibiting works of 21st century Chinese Contemporary Art.

This exhibition is curated by David Williams and surveys  30 works of new and established Chinese artists. The art historical dichotomy between East and West continues to be explored  in this exhibition as these artists take the western import of contemporary art and create their own zeitgeist.

      Xu Zhen’s  European Thousand-armed Classical Sculpture (2013-2014)        

 Leading the exhibition is a Xu Zhen’s  European Thousand-armed Classical Sculpture (2013-2014). Reaching over three metres tall, this pure white sculpture is created with 19  individual figures, single file, on  large plinths, high above our natural eyeline, forcing viewers to look up uncomfortably to take in the magnitude of the figures in front of us. The individual sculptures  include recognisable figures of Athena, The Statue of Liberty ,Jesus along with  other greek and roman statues. The sculpture as a whole, when viewed from the front, bears a resemblance to Guanyin,a Buddhist bodhisattva  religious figure representing compassion. This combination of recognised western religious and cultural figures displayed within an established Eastern religious iconic formation, raises considerations of the relationships between the East and the West and questions of counterculture balance/absorption and peace/conflict.

                                He Xiangyu’s Tank Project (2011-2013)

The question of conflict is also explored through He Xiangyu’s work Tank Project (2011-2013), a life size copy of a Soviet T34 tank, the same tank used by the Chinese military in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The work takes up a large space in the centre of an empty room, where  immediately on entering the area, we are struck by the strong smell of luxury Italian leather. The tank has been constructed and hand stitched using this leather,  raising considerations of the thousands of designer handbag copies that flood Chinese tourist markets. The tank is without structure, deflated, in the same way you would expect if it had been flattened by a large force.

There are many particularly striking sculptural works in the exhibition, including Library (2008) by Polit-Sheer-Form Office, consisting of 25 bookshelves containing 8,000 books. The books reference Mao Zedong’s ‘Little Red Book’  and raise questions of uniformity and collectivism, and show parallels to  Wilfredo Peito’s White Library, (2004) ,an utterly blank  room of more than 5,000 identical ,blank books.

Chou Chu-Wang, Four Bliss Stones (2014)

It is not just sculpture that features, Liu Chengrui’s performance video Guazi Moves Earth (2008) is hypnotic, as are Chou Chu-Wang’s oil on canvas The Hours (2015) and Four Bliss Stones (2014), meditative dot paintings on river stones. Shinji Ohmaki’s work Flotage-Tectonics (2013-2015) uses traditional silk screen techniques with a contemporary turn, creating elevation maps that could be mistaken for  thumb prints.

There is much to savour in this exhibition, and much more to contemplate. Heavy Artillery is  exciting, engaging and confronting in equal measure.

Handing Your Words Over

Recently, I handed over one of my plays for development to a producer and a group of professional actors. I say handed-over, because it as done with some reluctance and internal struggle before I could do so.

On the one hand, as with every scriptwriter, I really wanted to hear the play come to life. I wanted to hear the characters, to test the pacing and the dialogue and see what audience engaged with, and what didn’t work. I needed to know if the play worked as well outside my head as inside it.

On the other hand, I was full of fear. Fear that the work was terrible, that everyone who worked on it knew it too, but was too polite to tell me. Fear that the audience would feel sorry for me and avoid all eye contact, knowing I was just the crappest writer ever.

Keep in mind, I’m in a country that is not my own, with actors accents and intonations that are totally different from the ones I’d heard in my head as I wrote the play. I worried the words were going to get lost in the subtleties of interpretation, colloquialisms and regional accents. It is also a story I’ve carried in my head and worked on for years. I’m so used to having the main character around, he feels like a friend. I almost couldn’t bear to hear him change, at the hands of an actor who didn’t know him as well as I did. Weird, huh?

Overwhelmingly, I felt like I was putting my heart on a plate, and handing it to a group of people who I didn’t know, to let them gently dissect it between them.

The development process culminated in a live read to a public audience, to get as broad a view as possible on the work. That’s when all the limiting thoughts rolled in, the imposter syndrome, the self-doubt.

I didn’t sleep much the night before the reading. Small grabs of rest were filled with different disaster dreams. The first was that I’d given the producer the wrong version of the script. In the second dream, the actors refused to perform the play because of its poor quality. In the third I watched audience members walk out mid-show.

Friends who were attending the reading, received last-minute texts I’d carefully constructed, advising that I was totally ok if they couldn’t make it to the show, it wasn’t going to be a big deal at all, hardly worth leaving the house for, in fact. I turned the stress on myself and told my husband three hours beforehand that I didn’t think I could attend the performance.

Luckily, in his brilliantly nonchalant way, he just said, “Oh no you don’t. You’re not sabotaging yourself on my watch. We’re going.”

Two Fold. Photo by Fiona Georgiou Hunt

When the time finally arrived to start the show, I took my seat in the far back corner and curled myself into the foetal position, muttering quietly to myself that I really needed to grow a thicker skin.

As it turns out, it was much more educational and far less scary than I’d expected. Actually, it was completely exhilarating hearing brilliant actors bring the words to life, far better than I’d written them. I can’t express enough the value that great actors bring to scripts, it constantly blows my mind.

For the script itself, it was clear some lines worked better than I’d imagined, but one line I thought was pretty funny just wasn’t. A couple of character interactions needed some reworking and a few issues needed resolving.

I can fix the problems, and hearing it live was like putting a magnifying glass to each page, showing up the things to tweak, and the opportunities to dig a little deeper. It’s such a valuable process, even if we go through such angst to get there. The audience feedback was better than I expected, encouraging and helpful. There seemed to be an authentic interest in the story, which gave my confidence a boost.

I know that scriptwriting is a collaborative exercise, and writers need to know when to let their scripts go, but I still can’t help but direct my plays as I see them being performed. This is a control freak character flaw I know, but at least I keep those thoughts to myself.

Hopefully one day I’ll learn to hand over scripts with ease. Maybe I need to meditate away the control freak. I definitely need to stress out less.

But then again, maybe it’s all just part of the writing roller-coaster.

Cover image Photo by Peter Lewicki on Unsplash