Friday, August 31, 2012

Pondering the Short Story

As I sip my "Mellow Moments" tea, I am thinking of my book characters. I have a lot of them in my novel-in-progress. I don't know right now if I'm breaking any rules, but the fact is, they just keep coming to me as I write. It's likely I have way too many, and I'll probably be told someday to shave the numbers. But I can't kill any of them off before they've had a chance to shine. We all come across numerous people as we go about our day. Really, sit and count. Surprising, isn't it?

This week, I happened upon this blurb: "Write short stories. Fail faster." Hmm, interesting. But then- nah, I'm not really into short stories. But what does that mean? I'm working on a novel, forget it. Wait- I like doing things faster. Don't like to fail. But-- Stories? Love 'em. Short? Less commitment. Maybe there's something to this, but not for me. Or is there?

While I pondered this for a couple of days, I realized there is a lot I still don't know about my characters. So I listed all of them, marked the ones who were minor characters, then wrote a question I had about their past life. The entire page swarmed of short stories begging to be written. One character told me something interesting about his past, which I transcribed in one evening. . . *I know non-writers think it weird when writers talk this way, but there really isn't a better way to describe it*  After this, I was intrigued. I was hooked. I found the source of the blurb and bought the book in order to learn more about the craft of writing the short story.

I began to have this thought that just maybe, by writing the characters' stories, it could improve my novel. Of course, it would give me an amazing amount of writing practice. Just possibly, I could then share them with readers- if that time becomes right. How fun would it be to get a glimpse of these guys, then come across them in a novel and realize that you know why they just did what they did-- even if the other characters don't.  

It's also possible these stories won't be seen until after the novel. I liked the premise of "Fail Faster" because it's true-- it does feel pretty good to get a piece of writing finished and shined to a polish. The failing part just means that it's out there, floundering on its own, and has a good chance of rejection. But, something learned now can mean more success later.

By the way, did I mention that I love my characters? I'm having so much fun figuring out what happened to them before they came to be in my story. I hope I get to introduce them to you very soon.

What about you? Do you have any thoughts on short stories? Do you read or write them? What do you like/not like about them?


  1. As I sit in my rocker and sip my second cup of Folgers Dark Roast coffee, I am pondering a few points you made about writing the short story. First, in writing short stories about your characters, you have struck upon a wonderful way to get know your characters better and make them clear and alive for your readers. Second, there are many advocates who claim writing short stories in between developing your novel is rewarding for gaining feedback on your writing and in achieving reumeration for your work. I've tried writing short stories, but, for me, it becomes a side project that interrupts my creative flow for writing my novel and stifles my momentum for finishing it when I have to stop to research and query the market to find the right home for my short story. Instead, I view my individual chapters as their own short story. But I wouldn't mind writing short stories on the characters in my novels--surely that can only help, not hinder! I'm going to try that with the new characters in Sweet Glory's sequel. Thanks for the tip, Christina, and the best of luck to you in sketching your own characters!

  2. That's awesome, Lisa! Maybe we can trade and give each other feedback. It does take away from the novel writing, but so far, it's a little bit nice to have something else for when I get stuck. Thanks for pondering and commenting, as usual. I hope you're working on your blog post. . .

    1. I'm actually contemplating starting a blog through my Goodreads page, which I suppose I could replicate on my website? I've actually been using my Facebook Page as a blog of sorts.

    2. Great! Good luck. I wouldn't do anything twice, though. Too much work. Just find a home for your blog and stick to that.

  3. An interesting idea! I've always found short stories tricky to write. But recently I've started thinking about writing some again. They are a lot easier to move on from and get finished then a whole novel!