Right from the beginning, I’ve written novel-length stories. Perhaps because I grew up reading books and not magazines, I never attempted to write shorter tales. Or perhaps it was a snobbery of sorts—being a novelist has a certain cache that I’m not sure can be said of essayist or short story author. Either way, I hopped right to the 400 page gorilla.
In hindsight, I’m not sure that was the wisest course.
As Jessa so aptly described in her article yesterday, it doesn’t take a lot of words to tell a story. The advantage to learning the art of the short tale first is that you develop an infinite respect for the value of each and every word. When you only have a few to work with, each one must truly pull its weight.
I also believe a shorter medium forces the author to focus on the critical elements of the story: character, plot, conflict, resolution. You don’t have room to wander into convoluted subplots or lecture the reader on the world you’ve built to house your characters.
If you’ve ever tried to distill a novel-length book into a log line, you know how big and complicated a story of that length can be. Yet, I find the most memorable books are those that never lose sight of their core story, that never forget the true nature of the main character, and that tie up the trailing story threads—not neatly in a bow, but satisfactorily, with a reader’s sigh.
Learning the art of the short tale must surely help in honing those talents. Or so it seems to me.
I’ve since tried my hand a few shorter pieces. I wrote a 40 page Christmas story and 120 page medieval novella (which made it to the finals of the Brava Novella contest). I still have miles to go in perfecting the shorter story, but the experience was great. As you can see from my response to Jessa’s challenge yesterday, I find the concept of short-story-telling very intriguing, and I suspect I’ll make other forays into the genre. If for no other reason than to round out my skills.
Have you read short stories you fell in love with and found were delightfully complete and whole? Have you read others you wished were longer? Or (laughing) novels you wished were shorter? Feel free to share.
p.s. In the spirit of proving short can be good, I’ll offer up my brand new book trailer for DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, which is a mere 1 minute long. Enjoy.