Thursday, October 29, 2009

More on my Battle with Short Stories

But first: I love steampunk. I love it oh so much. The visuals are intriguing and amazing. I only hope that I can make my image of steampunk fit with the idea I have (because this idea already comes with distinct imagery, which I have to work past any time I write about it, here I'll need to mingle the two cohesively). Maybe I should actually draw it out, characters wearing clothes with both elements, as a visual focus for that mingling. Hmm.

Anyway, to the topic at hand. After yesterday's post, I was thinking about what is it that makes it more difficult for me to write short stories rather than novels.

One idea, the issue most writers encounter: the middle of the book slump. In a novel, I read that, or at least the first wave of it, around page 50 or 80. Then again two-thirds through the book, usually. But a short story. I've had time to muddle through not quuiite knowing where I'm going until I come to a halt. But I can rework things and plow through it. I have enough to work with at that point.

In a short story, though, there's usually a lengh limitation. In 1,000, even 5,000, there isn't much time muddle through 'here's a cool character, let's see what they do next.' So I need to know more about where the story is going (how it begins and ends, a little of the middle) when it's short, than when it's novel-length. If I don't know what's supposed to happen, I've wasted the rest of my words on meandering. To avoid that, then, I take much longer to write what length-wise I could finish in a day, because I need to think everything through before writing it down.

Example: The Halloween story. I started with an idea, an image, a problem with the neighborhood cats disappearing every year in October. Then I figured out my protagonist, and I start thinking out how that one night will proceed. Do I end it on a scary note, am I skilled enough to make it scary, or should I add some humor, or a twist, or just it ambiguous? Right now, I think I know enough to get to that point, but I almost don't want to write it before I can answer that question. Thus, I am stuck in what is approximately the middle, because it's a short-short story (I try to reason, if I aim for 500, I won't go over 1,000--we'll see).

I suppose that's my cue to end here, though, and start working through that middle slump.
I'm off!

Happy writing everyone,

*Photo is from Lisa Snellings' blog Slaughterhouse Studios . It's a detail of one of her sculptures, Grim Reading. I love her work, and whenever I want a creepy or intriguing atmosphere for writing, I go there to get in the mood.

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