Monday, July 21, 2008

No Shorts





Not in this weather, anyway. ;-)









Seriously, though, when I gather with or swap emails with other writers, the talk naturally turns to story markets, especially for short stories. It always makes me feel like a bit of a freak.

I seem to be the only writer I know who doesn't write short stories. Never. aI just don't seem to have it in me. For that matter, I rarely read them. The average short story seems to follow a form that hasn't changed much since Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde: set a scene, develop it, then turn it on its head with a twist.

That may be my trouble. When I want to explore a scene in the back of my mind, I sit down with paint and canvas and noodle around.

If I like what I see, I develop it further.

A couple of hours later, I've got all the scene and atmosphere I need. There's no character development, but that's okay.






For that, I've got words.

18 comments:

Riss said...

I sound like a broken record I'm sure to some but have you read "Invisible Cities?" good short stories. I've always tended to be more of the short story writer-I seem to be better at implying things than actually writing the full scoop story on things. I'm going to try the painting approach though if you don't mind-I like that idea.

Lisa said...

Interesting post. I don't write short fiction either, but I have noticed there are a lot of novel writers who publish short stories to fill out their resumes. Some are people who do write and enjoy both forms, but many are aspiring novelists who seem to think that if you can write one, you can write the other and I suspect they don't read or enjoy short stories. Although I do read short stories and I like them, I recognize that it's a very different form from the novel. I have what may be kind of a weird view that if you don't like/read short stories and if you don't support the struggling print and ezine journals who publish them, then you "shouldn't" (that's a total value judgment on my part) be trying to publish them. I am developing more of an interest in trying my hand at flash fiction though. I don't think it's incompatible with the marathon and I think it can be a nice way to finish small chunks of writing. I like reading flash too, since it's short.

Barbara Martin said...

I have read many short stories, and I have tried my hand at writing short stories. Some years back I took a children's writing course and learned the hard way I wasn't cut out to write a conflict, character description and solution in less than 500 words. I'm sticking to novels.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

Steve, looks like you have a few novelists posting her (I'm guessing I am correct). I've written one novel in 22 years, the rest is all short fiction, in 170 anthlogies and three collections. If I write a story, regardless of length, I like to think that the reader will come away thinking "why did he pick THAT to write about?"

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

and, yes, you can see my typing skills have betrayed me yet again.

@Barbara--short fiction does not have to be as complicated as you think (or as the class might have led you to believe). The best short story will not be about conflict and solution, it will be about a specific scene and the reader is left to figure out what happened after the story ends.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like reading and writing either one. It all depends on story to me. Some stories that get in my head can only be told at length, and some should never be told at length. I rather enjoy "cutting" and "pruning" and that probably pushes me toward shorter lengths. I would have to say overall, though, that at least 2/3rds of the most memorable "reads" I've ever had have been short stories. I think, though, that some genres lend themselves to short stories more than others. SF and horror stories are often best at short length, I think. Maybe other genres not as much.

Lana Gramlich said...

My god, man! I'd just finished eating & BLAM! There's Mr. Hairy Ass, all smiling at me w/blurry eyes. Gads!
Thanks for chasing that image away with the lovely paintings, though. *whew* That was a close one!

Steve Malley said...

Riss, you may try that approach all you like. :)

Lisa, I tend to think that if you're not 'into' any medium, you just won't bring the best tools to bear. Writers who don't like short stories but do them anyway strike me like novelists who never read books or screenwriters who don't go to movies.

I think sooner or later (usually sooner), the lack shows.

Barbara, I have a similar problem: I latch onto conflict and character arc, and next thing I know I'm sitting on a novel-length work.

Wayne, when it comes to shorts, you're THE MAN. I love what you're saying about the form. That's *exactly* what I try to do with my painting...

Lana, the original picture was un-pixellated, but I wanted to, um, preserve his anonymity.

cs harris said...

Since my last comment seems to have disappeared into thin air, I'll try again! I've never written short stories, either. I admire people--like Charles--who can do both, because they really are two very different forms. Then again, I don't read short stories, either. Perhaps that's why my imagination doesn't seem to flow in that direction.

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

@cs and pretty much the whole crowd: I enjoy novels in the mystery genre, but also, I must say that I'll read more pulp short fiction in the reprint anthologies than, say, the recent WOLF WOMAN BAY collection, which seemed to have all novella-length stories from the 2005 EQs as its ToC. I went to one mystery convention, Mayhem In The Midlands in Omaha three years back, and I was amazed at the amount of people there who had no interest in the short story, fans included. A good 85% of my work is straight down the middle streets of Chicago cops and outcasts with their own idiosycrancies. When I was just starting out in the 80s, the late Charles Grant kept the original short story anthology alive when no one else was or did, SHADOWS and NIGHTMARES introduced me to writers who are good friends now, like Joe Lansdale and Dennis Etchison. Just two examples of writers I was introduced to through my love of short fiction. My long-winded and meandering point is that a person who writes both s.s. and novels has a better chance of getting new readers. I think it also holds that, for someone still not published, its a good idea to try writing short fiction in between the (possible) rejection slips. I've even suggested to a few new writers to take a scene from the novel in limbo and craft a story from that, have something you can feel comfortable with if you choose to write in shorter form.

Avery DeBow said...

I'm not big on short story writing, either. I can do it when pressed, but the result is never as satisfying as the longer works I produce. Every time I try for a short, I end up thinking how to turn it into a novel. Before I know it, I'm back to plotting a 120,000+ word monster. Maybe I'm just too lazy to censor myself.

SQT said...

Ahhhh!

I can't make it past the hairy man's butt.

My eyes! My eyes!

etain_lavena said...

I am sure you have read some of my short stories....my novel actually grew from my short story, by chance it took life. With me my short viginettes(if thats even the spelling) take more a poetic feel.
But each one to their own....what blows your skirt up, but not if you have a bum like that dude, if you have shorts like that, burn it now....for the welfare of humans everywhere...I beg you;)
HUGZ

Steve Malley said...

CS, my first graphic novel was supposed to be 22 pages long. After I took 100 pages out, I still had 130 pages left. Some of us just do novels, I guess.

Avery, I hear you fantasy-types need the extra leg-room.

SQT, just imagine my joy trolling for that pic!

Etain, you do great short work. I kinda wish I did too. If for no other reason than...

Steve Malley said...

Short stories have a couple of important virtues that Wayne hasn't mentioned:

1) Markets. Though it's not like the Golden Age of magazine fiction, there are still a LOT more places to sell and show a short story than a novel. There are still some magazines, smaller indies, anthologies, chapbooks, web fiction, etc. For novels, we're down to something like nine major houses.

2) Longevity. Wayne might be a bit modest, but stories he wrote years ago still appear in new venues (and bring new royalties). Novels have a shelf life 'longer than milk, but shorter than yogurt'.


Short work is not a bad way to go, if you've got the skills and the desire. Closest I'll be able to come to that is maybe selling prints of my paintings.

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Ello said...

that picture made me spew so badly. Oh lord I'm crying!

And the paintings are so lovely, did you really paint it? I'm really loving it! The painting, not Mr. short shorts.

Steve Malley said...

Ello, I sure did! One of these days, I'll get a few decent pix and o a little 'virtual' exhibit...