by Tom Schreck, author of The Duffy Dombrowski Mysteries
Aspiring writers often suggest that they ought to start out writing short stories before they dive into a full length novel.
You see, though the word count of the short story might be less daunting than the novel, the plotting, the foreshadowing, the symbolism, the plot twists and turns and all that other literary crap is harder.
Simply because you’ve got less room to maneuver. You can’t bury red herrings in early chapters and hope readers don’t see them as obvious. You can’t drop in some long winded subplot to explain what the hell your main character is all about.
That means the writing has to be super tight, tighter than–hold it, something tells me I better not complete that metaphor.
But it means that you’ve got to be good and quick without hurrying the reader or telegraphing the point of your story. You have to tip off your characters main features in brief phrases and mannerisms and hope the readers get it. You have to be economical with not only your words but your points and where you want to go.
The very best short stories make every word and sentence count. Every inflection, everything done and not done means something. When its good it gives the reader a great meal filled with scrumptious calories that excite, inspire and intrigue. When its bad it’s short, forced, predictable and bland. The reader may be filled because of the time invested but they’re left starving for something with some punch and meaning.
I’ve never understood why more people don’t read more short stories. Maybe it’s because there are far fewer anthologies around these days. I love the idea of online downloads. I have to believe that traveling business people are looking for something better to do than watching a TV reality show while eating bad pizza on the hotel chain bed. There’s gotta be folks too busy to get out to the bookstore or people who can’t commit to the 400 page novel who would love to treat themselves with quality fiction. For them wouldn’t a quick, cheap download be perfect? Shouldn’t they just gobble up short stories all the time?
I hope so.
And I hope they appreciate how freaking hard it is to write too.