How to Write Fiction

by Shauna Shiff Issue: 2022 Special Issue on Identity

If this were a short story, it would open with a toddler, 
still in her Cinderella nightgown, rushing from floor vent to floor vent

for the blast of heat whining through the metal grate 
pressing into the soles of her bare feet. The TV is on, her choice, a cat

chasing a mouse, and her eyes are trained steadfast on the flicker,
lower jaw dropped in absorption.  Soon, leaning against the doorjamb

is the uncle, unsteady, one skeletal shoulder 
supporting the whole weight of him, slurred words dropping 

like dimes fleeing in a clatter from an unseamed pocket.  
The channel is changed, dolls decapitated, and surely something 

is broken or maybe thrown. If this were fiction, 
instead of my own memory, I’d rewrite the narrative 

to give the villain a voice, for even the most grizzled 
must have a story to tell, reasons worth reading.



Shauna Shiff

Shauna Shiff (she/her) is an English teacher in Virginia, a mother, wife and textiles artist. Her poems can be found in and upcoming in Stoneboat Literary Journal and in River and South Review