♦Welcome to another edition of the Open Book Blog Hop!♦
Do you ever write short stories? What do you see as the biggest difference
in the writing process between a short story and a full-length book?
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In school, I was that nerd that liked to hear about all the different forms of writing prose that one could undertake. Novellas, novels, short stories, you name it! I was there on the edge of my seat. At home, I consumed whatever I could get my hands on. For fun, I even read the complete Sherlock Holmes stories while doing my stair climber workout. Sherlock got me through the grueling regimen, for certain.
Short stories have been one of my favorite forms of writing to consume. I loved them from the first day. There’s a connection to them in children’s books. After all, aren’t children’s books just short stories? They are indeed with all of the genres mixed in. Of course I had a great outlook toward them. This is how reading and writing began for me.
That said, I am not a writer of short works. Even writing a 120 page screenplay is a bit of a wrestling match for me. I tend to write sweeping, but lengthy epics. They’re the genre I fell in love with at conception. You read that right: conception. If you’ve been hanging around the hop, you’ve probably read that my mother read Tolkien while pregnant with me. Conception is meant quite literally!
Brevity is hard. Some suggest that Hemingway is the expert in brevity, but I believe that more modern writers suit the desire to keep writing minimalist without sacrificing clarity. Truman Capote, for example was really great at writing shorter works. His style and ability strike me as far better. Hemingway definitely sacrificed clarity, while Capote did no such thing. For example, in Hemingway’s work, I had no idea who was saying what in the conversations and that is annoying. Who wants to write an initial next to each line, and can we be certain that is correct, just to understand the full depth of what is happening (because dialogue is characterization as well)? If more than two people sit in the scene, some of the lines belonged to one of them. We will never know. Therefore, I never fully realized the characters or impacts of those stories.
While Papa had great ideas, just like any other writer, the execution wasn’t perfect. Capote may not be perfect either, but he was much better. To write short stories, you have to be closer to perfect in my esteem. Your idea has to be sound and quick. It must be something you can wind up in short order. What is short order? I like to keep my short stories under one-hundred pages in length. After that, I think you’ve crossed into novella territory.
My ideas, by the nature of their genre, are for more lengthy discourse. That said, if you’ve read the Trailokya series, you’ll see a section in one of the books about a young lady named Marna. I had toyed with the idea of writing short episodes for each of the supporting characters. First on my docket was Zacharius. Thus, Marna was created. That story stands alone well, so let me explain it a bit…
The premise is that of a struggling student artist. Marna believes she has schizophrenia, and likely that is what a doctor would diagnose. The encounters with other worldly beings are quite vivid and they grow increasingly real. Marna understandably becomes depressed. Clearly, she had been slipping into the vagueness of despair, but these events pitch her into the darkness. Eventually, it is clear to only her that her life has little meaning.
The art that Marna creates is stunning and she’s a great talent, but those around her want to hold her back, and diminish her brilliance, so that they can have an opportunity to shine–feeling so entitled to that. On top of this, Marna is a immigrant from Europe, trying to make her way in Los Angeles. She’s dyed her hair black and dove into the goth trends of the 1990s. None of this helps, but it does keep people at a distance, and therefore they don’t dig at her quite so much.
Marna figures that Zach is a manifestation of a need to escape her hardships and be cared for. Neglectful parents and the cusp of adulthood are threatening her last threads of safety. Whether or not Marna experiences mental illness is left to the reader. But in the end, Marna sacrifices her life to save that of a stranger, a child, who looks much like herself.
The boy, you see, is out playing with his skateboard and basketball near her bus stop one night. It’s late and his parents are nowhere near. Is this child just a manifestation of her own inner child, stifled and abandoned at this time? Could be. But, the car that hits her is very real when she leaps in front of it to push the boy out of the way. And when she comes to, standing up the street some yards looking back at her own body, she sees the child trying to wake her and the panicking driver. The boy can still see her, standing beside Zach as her body dies.
The story ended up fitting very neatly into Trailokya (Book 2). I won’t write out the threads that tie into the story, because that’s a bit of a spoiler for those who haven’t read the books yet. The point is, it didn’t work out, even when I found a story that was a neat little nugget that could stand on its own. Instead, I found a way to apply to something larger. While it eventually, one day, may be an episode for a television series, it will always be tied to Trailokya’s three-part book series.
Once, as I recall, I attempted a short story, but that was a comedy attempt at absurdity, and no one really understood it at all. It was completely hysterical to me and a friend. Absurdity is being too light with the facts.
In the end, I don’t think I will attempt short stories any more than I attempt to write poetry. It just isn’t my artform, and there are plenty of authors who do write short work. They may continue to do so without me butting in. Sticking to full-fledged books is where I belong!
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