Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tom Mach - Stories to Enjoy - Guest Post

Guest Post

"How I Developed the Formation of Plot for Stories to Enjoy"
by Tom Mach

Unlike a novel, a short story inevitably has only one or two scenes, so a “plot” in such a case involves a small number of characters (usually one or two) who have to deal with a specific situation. In Stories to Enjoy I include 16 of my short stories, each involving a different situation. These situations are typically not resolved but often provide readers with a story ending that begs for an answer to a question that the writer has posed.

For example, in “Breakfast Over Easy” I pose a situation where the protagonist named Chuck—a man in a diner waiting for his friend to show up—has to make a tough decision. He learns that his male friend couldn’t show up because he has cancer. But his friend’s fiancĂ©e does, is obviously interested in Chuck, and wants to meet him on a regular basis. Should Chuck betray is friend and do it or not? The story doesn’t answer the question, making the reader beg for an answer.

Another difference between a plot for a novel versus a plot for a short story is the greater complexity of the former compared to the simpler layout of the latter. When I formulate a plot for a novel I develop a detailed synopsis for it and then I need to strongly visualize the characters in that novel. There are often subplots in the novel—sidebar stories if you will—that are somehow connected to the main theme. In a short story, I need to develop the situation my character or characters will face. Plus, I need to develop my characters with just enough description that they seem real to the story.

In another story in Stories to Enjoy called “The Assassin”, I have Kerry Kingston, the Press Secretary to the President, onboard Air Force One and flying to Britain. Kerry’s character is fully described, not only in terms of her appearance, but more importantly, what is going through her mind as she later sits next to the President in Dover…..

Kerry’s mind wandered at the President continued to speak. At times she wished she didn’t have the visibility she had. She just wanted to be a journalist. Instead, she was a public official, serving a man with whom she felt uncomfortable. Maybe she just disliked men that had to have their own way all the time.

Minutes later, Kerry closes her eyes and thinks, Why do you feel kind of a resigned peace, Kerry? Like you’re finally coming home. Like this would be as far as you would have to go. Why?

The story’s all about her premonition that she would be killed. And she was. Hence, the heavy focus on her state of mind. But in other stories, plot is the main focus—such as in “The Plot to Kill Lincoln (again)”, where a professor gets a chance to go back in time to stop the assassination.

I guess a logical question to ask is where these ideas of mine come from? Sometimes I use a “What if” scenario but at other times, they just somehow enter my head—which is akin to a birdhouse where my muse flies in, rests comfortably, then flies away to bother another author.

Book Summary

This unique collection of 16 short stories written by prize-winner Tom Mach includes stories such as "Real Characters," which is about a writer who gets his wish--that his characters come alive.... "Breakfast, Over Easy" makes you wonder about loyalty in the face of temptation.... "When Kansas Women Were Not Free" takes you to a time when women were less free than former males slaves.... "Son" make you think differently about compassion. One novelist describes STORIES TO ENJOY as "memorable and intriguing, with O. Henry twists that are sure to surprise and entertain."


The professor focused his entire attention on what Ford’s Theater looked like back in April of 1865. He imagined himself to be John Wilkes Booth’s friend and stagehand—Edman Spangler. After a long while he felt himself growing exceedingly tired, and when he opened his eyes he found himself in the real Ford’s Theater. There was no one in the presidential box and Wilson, who now believed he was indeed Mr. Spangler, ran his hand over the balustrade.

“Spangler,” a voice called out to him from below, “are you still working on removing the partition of the box to make room for the President and General Grant?”

It was John Wilkes Booth himself speaking to him!


Tom Mach wrote two successful historical novels, Sissy! and All Parts Together, both of which have won rave reviews and were listed among the 150 best Kansas books in 2011.Sissy! won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award while All Parts Together was a viable entrant for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Award. He also wrote a collection of short stories entitled Stories To Enjoy which received positive reviews. Tom’s other novels include: An Innocent Murdered, Advent, and Homer the Roamer.

His poetry collection, The Uni Verse, won the Nelson Poetry Book Award. In addition to several awards for his poetry, Writer’s Digest awarded him ninth place in a field of 3,000 entrants. His website is: He also has a popular blog for writers of both prose and verse at



PLEASE MENTION THE PRIZE THAT THE AUTHOR WILL BE GIVING AWAY (a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter) and encourage your readers to follow the tour and comment; the more they comment, the better their chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:


  1. Best of luck and thanks for sharing how you wrote it.

  2. Your short stories sound really interesting. Great concept.

  3. Don't know if you've talked about where you write so I'll ask: do you ever write in places like Starbucks or Barnes & Noble? Good places for people watching or just organize your thoughts as you stare into space.

  4. I can imagine the differences in writing a novel as opposed to short stories.


  5. Tom, thanks for the guest post. I appreciate everyone's comments.

  6. Host for The Plot Thickens--

    Sorry I'm late in thanking you for putting on a great display of my guest post. I've been swamped and am just now getting to my comments. Have a great day.

  7. Renald--

    Thanks for your comment on my guest blog for Stories to Enjoy. I'm not sure which is more fun--reading stories or writing them.

  8. kimba88

    Thanks for your comment. A short story is like a short person. Both can have a lot of substance to them despite their length (or height)

  9. Momjane & Karen H

    I appreciate hearing from both of you. I hope you decide to read Stories to Enjoy to see how much you enjoy them. Karen--to answer your question I usually do the actual writing in my office although I use other places for daydreaming my ideas.

  10. I would like to thank the host of The Plot Thickens for doing such a great treatment for my book description.