Every month, I try to write at least one short story. Not only is it a way to get more of my stories out there for those of you who are brave enough to read them, but it also allows me to hone my skill in the art of short story writing.
And let me tell you, writing a short story, say under 5,000 words is vastly different than writing longer fiction. In my opinion, it is also much, much harder.
In a novel, you have time. You develop your characters, your plot line, and your atmosphere to slowly draw the readers into the world that you create. They can be enticed with the sights and experiences that you want to show them. A longer piece of fiction allows you to build the reality that you want the readers to see.
While novels and longer fiction allow you to create a new reality over time, a short story, at least a good short story forces you to take all that information that you have in a novel and condense it, prioritize it, and filter it to give the reader a snap shot of the world of your characters. In an instant, a writer of short stories needs to show the reader exactly what he should see to understand what is going on, and to infer, at his leisure any back story that might exist. There isn’t the luxury of drawn out narratives or waxing poetic. No, a short story only offers you the chance to record the vibrant and visceral present, with a few momentary glances into the past if you’re lucky.
That is a ton of pressure to put on a story, and the writer. It’s no wonder that so few people do it with any real success. And don’t worry- I’m fully and completely including myself in that hall of shame. I write short stories on a regular basis not because I am any good at it- rather I write in order to get better.
Take for example the current story that I’m working on. Sadly, I don’t think there is any way that I can turn this little gem back into a short story. It’s a mystery involving embezzlement, mistaken identity, technology, robbery, murder, and the occasional romantic interludes just to make things a bit more interesting.
It was originally slated to be a short story about 4,500 words- a story detailing the robbery and recovery of a high tech plans destined to completely re-invent the world of the characters involved. That’s all it was.
Now, however there is a file on my computer sitting at 18k+ words- and it bears little if any resemblance to the original concept.
How the heck did this happen?
Well to not put a too fine a point on it, it happened because I allowed it to happen. While I love to write, I have yet to completely develop the level of discipline needed to write a good short story.
Ah well. It’s a learning process, right?
© 2014, Laura Seeber. All rights reserved.