On the nature of short stories

…That is to say, on the nature as I have observed it. While I am not, currently, an extremely prolific author [read, have not been published], I have some things to say based on my experience in the field thus far. [Both as a reader and as a writer]

Short stories do not need to be resolved. The immediate problem may be addressed and taken care of, but when all is said and done, the overarching main problem may continue to be an issue so long as it does not interfere with the characters’ resolution of the immediate issue.

Short stories can have vicious, brutal protagonists because you don’t need to be in their perspective as long as in novels. I don’t know- as a reader, I find it very difficult to sympathize with characters who are total buttfaces. But that’s just me. I’m sure some of you don’t mind reading whole novels where the main character is an unsympathetic mess of violence, but for me…

Not so much. And indeed, there are likely novels out there where the main character IS an unsympathetic violent mess. I don’t believe in it from a writing standpoint. Characters, for me, make and break a story- for a short story, such a character might be okay [especially if he/she gets his/her comeuppance in the end]. But for a novel? Forget it. I’ll drop the book rather than sit through that drivel.

But in general, as long as the story has more than just the violent mess of a main character going for it, it can make it into a short story collaboration.

Next, I’ve observed that short stories are not always short- or meant to be, as it were. A short story can easily be an excerpt, clipped and cut from a novel, and mailed in as a short story. There can easily be any number of short stories clipped INTO a novel, just waiting for you to pluck them. Sometimes short stories start as such and grow into novels, in the way that Demimind started as something quite small and has sort of grown into this monster. [Though I recognize that as far as actual wordcount goes, it isn’t really all that big]

But it isn’t always that easy, either.

In the vein of my second idea on brutality in short stories, you can also push more limits with short stories and get away with them. A short story takes less time to write than a novel on average, and a short story takes less time to read. Someone who does read it may be more tolerant of new ideas than if they had to deal with a full novel of them. The material in a short story is generally much different from what goes into a full novel or novella. The plots are accordion’d down into tiny little stacks. A lot of the time they squish together- in fact, a lot of the time a short story differs from a novel simply by dint of being so fast.

The hardest thing about writing a short story is the ending. For me, it’s simply the question- ‘How will this end?’

How do I go about it? How could I end something with so much promise? It’s always a challenge to figure out exactly what I’ll do.

But there’s the cool thing about my writing style- I don’t have to figure it out. The words flow for me. I recognize that sometimes they don’t and I have to write through it, but they’re never gone for long. I could sit here and write for hours and hours about that feeling, about how scary it is to rely on flow over, say, the laborious task of learning how to write without it. That’s where the well educated masses have me, I suppose.

I don’t have my degree yet. They can write mediocre things after a few long, hard hours of trying to come up with a plot…

And every once in a while I- poor old me- can write out brilliant works of art right off the top of my head. Well I guess the joke is on me- this is the closest I’m ever likely to get to being published.

By the same token, I’m not bitter about that. I like my style. I recognize there are others. Some people have to work really hard to write. It works differently for everyone. I take my inspiration from the world without and within and transform it into words.

Some people mimic, some people strive, some people flow and some people just do math. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you do it. The same goes for short stories- no matter how you get the job done, it gets done. It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad- if the story inside gets out on paper, it was worth the effort, and you have the art to show for it.

-Eris