What’s the difference between Script-writing and #writing short stories?

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, where I interview writers, editors, and agents, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome S. Mickey Lin, who provides insights on writing fiction.

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  1. Your background is in scriptwriting so when did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?

I’ve always been interested in storytelling which is why I got into film. When I moved to Asia, I wanted to improve my writing by exploring different formats and genres. I started to write short stories and poetry and I’ve been fortunate to find publishers willing to publish them. I’m still writing screenplays and I find that my experience in different formats strengthens my understanding of writing overall. It’s still a learning process though.

2. How has your background shaped your work?

Well, screenplay has a lot more white space than prose and so I’ve been adjusting the amount of descriptions I would use in prose versus a screenplay. Also, short stories are a lot shorter than screenplays. It’s been a terrific learning experience in that I have think about the different requirements and considerations for each format.

#Writing is like a piece of muscle — if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. ~ S. Mickey Lin Click to Tweet

3. Then do you prefer one format over another?

Surprisingly, no. I think every format has a unique obstacle that a writer has to overcome. For a short story, the obstacle is how to introduce a relatable character in a very short period of time and dramatize an event to accentuate a conflict which they will need to overcome. For film, you have more time than a short story, but the obstacle is to keep the story entertaining throughout the entire 90-140 minutes. They’re both equally difficult, just in different ways.

4. In your opinion then, what makes a successful short story?

A solid structure that introduces an interesting conflict, a relatable character, and hopefully, an ending that is deserved. I won’t say happy ending because not all stories need a happy ending, but an ending that is fitting and appropriate for our protagonist.

5. Do you have an ideal reader in mind as you write?

Not really. I write mostly to try and understand the world around me. It’s through writing that I can think through things and hopefully the readers will enjoy some of the stories that arise from my curiosity.

Writers Uncany Valley Mickey Lin6. Marshall Cavendish recently published Uncanny Valley, your short story collection. What were some of your considerations when planning your short story collection?

For me, I wanted the short stories to be interrelated so that it would feel bigger than just a single story. For Uncanny Valley, some of the characters mentioned in one story become the main protagonist in another. I was very conscious about this when I was writing the short stories. I imposed a personal creative challenge — to link the stories in some way or another — when I started to plan my collection and that became a major consideration when I wrote the stories.

7. You were recently on a panel about local literature at the Singapore Writers Festival. Can you name five Singaporean authors that people should read?

I can name more than five but if I have to limit it to just five, it would be: Alfian Sa’at, Amanda Lee Koe, Audrey Chin, Josephine Chia, and Suchen Christine Lim. There are plenty more and I truly hope that more Singapore-based authors will get the recognition they deserve.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring/emerging writers?
Read as much as you can to find out what works and what doesn’t work.
Take notes — keep a notebook and jot down lines or phrase you like and why you like it.
Write daily — doesn’t have to be a story but write so that you can either discover your voice or maintain your voice. Think of it like a piece of muscle — if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Find a supportive community — sometimes you need to hear what other people think about your work. You don’t have to like what people say about your work, but you should at least have an idea of what people think. Also, I use the word ‘supportive’ because you want to find a community that brings out the best in you.
Pay it forward — help out other writers when you can. It’s just good karma.


Writers from SingaporeS. Mickey Lin is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, a writer and entrepreneur who spends time between Los Angeles and Singapore. His work has been published in the US, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Uncanny Valley is his first short story collection.

Are you a reader, a writer, or both?  Do you read more short stories or novels? As a reader or writer, do you have questions for Mickey Lin?

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of S. Mickey Lin’s collection of stories Uncanny Valley to one of the commenters!

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I love comments, and I always visit back. Blogging is all about being a part of a community, and communities are about communication! Tweet me up @damyantig !

22 comments

Add Yours
  1. Vibha Ravi

    Creative minds are fascinating because they think so differently compared to the rest. I like Mickey Lin’s advise of ‘paying it forward’. In today’s competitive age, it’s rare to find that streak of goodness. God bless!

  2. cleemckenzie

    I love that you feature authors from the Pacific Rim. We need to know about them and their perspective of our world through their books. Thanks.

  3. pratikshya2

    I have tried short stories and simple short fiction but never screenplays or a full fledged script… seems exciting yet daunting…. these days I am trying to write daily but have not been very successful… the title of the book is interesting…
    Never read Singaporean authors.. willing to connect with that section of the world….

  4. Pullingweeds

    I’ve never tried script writing. I imagine it requires a specific format that is recognisable to theatre producers and film makers to enable them to translate it into a film or a play. Maybe a screenplay could be described as the translation of a story into the basis of a film or play, but that’s only my guess. Does this sound feasible?

  5. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Damyanti and Mickey – wise words and such an interesting and informative post with some great advice and suggestions. Can quite see where you’re coming from … what a great interview – thanks so much – cheers Hilary

  6. aj vosse

    Great post again! I have often wondered if some of my short stories won’r transfer into film quite well? I also like the idea of interrelating the stories… something I think I’ll try!! 😉

  7. Suzy Que

    I think script writing is incredibly hard to do. I enjoy poetry the most as you can say a lot in just few words and poetry allows one to break grammatical constructs. Thanks for sharing this interview.

  8. Geethica

    Hey Damyanti,that’s an inspiring interview. At every step we learn so much from different people. And yes every format of writing has its own charm.

  9. Holly Jahangiri

    Interesting interview and solid advice for writers. Screenplays and scripts are a form of writing that still feels very challenging and awkward to me. I can’t tell if it’s any good or not, whereas I always have a sense of when everything “clicks” into place when writing short stories and poetry. I think that studying screenwriting helps short story writers and novelists with structure, story pacing, and dialogue. Studying poetry helps tighten narrative and encourages more concrete, vivid imagery. I’d love to read Lin’s Uncanny Valley.

  10. pjlazos

    Great advice! I do all five of those things and I do feel that it’s amped up my ability and productivity as a writer. Nice interview. Thanks, Damyanti.

  11. Sharon Bonin-Pratt

    Thank you, Damyanti, for featuring this interview with Lin. I’ve written novels (unpublished) but struggle with short story format – they keep wriggling out of their boundaries. These explanations are really helpful. Now I go forth and try the genre again, with a bit more fortitude – and stronger boundaries.

  12. Almost Iowa

    Thank you for the interview and especially for the list of Singapore writers.

    I had an interesting conversation a while back about world literature. To some extent, popular literature is written with a wider audience in mind, sometimes it is written for a world audience rather than a local audience and in that sense, the reader is limited to an experience that is tailored for them.

    Reading literature, written by local writers for a local audience is much more revealing. It may contain perspectives and prejudices that would be air-brushed away by an international editor.

    Just a thought….