Short stories were not normally something I could find enjoyment in or share a connection with. Often they appeared to have no meaning or leave me feeling confused about what had happened and why.
Short stories need to be quick and profound.
The tone and topic in which you write a short story should be, in my eyes, dozens of times more powerful than a piece of 80 000+ words. It might not have a plot line at all, but simply be describing something: an emotion, an event, a person, some nameless thing that the reader never even gets to identify with. Short stories are supposed to make you think, question aspects of life that were previously thought to be established or unsettle concepts that need to be unsettled again. Many short stories are 500 words of dialogue attached to a character in a specific moment in his or her life. I can read novels for that and get their whole story. Give me a short story. Make me think.
I used to hate writing short stories. I loathed it. I never understood how you could get a beginning, middle, and end in so few words. How can you get action? Romance? Villainy? Betrayal? You have only a few hundred, or a few thousand, words to use to portray these things that so often make or break a plot and draw readers in.
But I’ve written my fair share of short stories over the years, little blips of characters or scenes that had no place in a novel but found their way into my head nonetheless. I’ve come to love writing short stories. It’s a bit like having a string of lovers. I can love each one, learn a bit about them, have my way with them, and move along to the next without feeling guilty I abandoned them in pursuit of something new and interesting. I don’t worry about what’s going to happen to them 25 years from now. I don’t feel bad about what happens to them because, frankly, I don’t know them well enough to care that much. They’re one-night stands. Exciting, pleasurable, non-committal.
In my recent anthology (of which you can buy a print copy by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or wait for the ebook edition later this season), I have a couple handfuls of short stories. I love them. They’re so fun. They’re dangerous. I can skip a beginning, an introduction to a cast. I don’t have to introduce anyone if I don’t want to. Anonymity is great. I can dive into the middle. The middle most likely isn’t the climax of the person’s life, or even their day, but it’s the middle of a moment that for whatever reason is worth writing about, and hopefully, reading.
My attention span isn’t the greatest. I get bored and distracted and look for something shiny to play with like a crow rooting through a pile of garbage. I’ve only completed one novel (I refuse to count the novel I wrote at age 13 because it’s shameful to read). I’m supposed to rewrite it within the year. It hasn’t happened yet, though I did do the majority of the outline. I started two novels this year. One made it to the 10 000 word mark and I’m still chipping away it — but slowly, slowly.
I just get so distracted. By books, by the internet, by writing short stories, by editing photos and reading blogs and sketching and sewing and and and —
See? I’m even distracted within this post.
But back to short stories.
I decided to start another anthology (to be released around this time next year if all goes well), this time a series of short stories all related to each other. I’ve written three of the pieces so far, and hope to write fifteen or so more. Fifteen more fleeting pleasures to be had. Fifteen more delicious and sinfully delightful one-night stands to experience.
Here I go, to a place where distraction can happen and loves abandoned. A world of short stories. A world of one-night stands.
I mean, it’ll get lonely after awhile. But I have my WIP novels. They are the strong relationships in my life, the ones that keep me together and challenge me, the ones I have to work out problems with. I can have fun with them, too, but…it doesn’t feel as naughty. 😉