How to Write a Short Story

Posted: March 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

I wish this was an informative post on how to write a short story. I have been told that publishing a novel is much easier if you have a healthy roster of published short stories to serve as a resume, and after the work I put into Weapon Snitch, I would love the assistance.

But, to be blunt and a little rude, I know absolute fuck all when it comes to writing short stories.

It’s times like these when I wish I had Rod Serling’s gift. That man knew how to pump out short stories. I remember my mom introducing me to the Twilight Zone when I was young and I immediately was swallowed whole by the grainy black and white images, the bizarre twists, and the well delivered morals.

In half an hour, Rod Serling could take you to different planets, different times, or even transport you into the darkest depths of space. He distorted your perceptions of reality, and then, when you felt your connections to the world around you all but eroded away, he could bring it all slamming back home in a sentence and a quirky grin that was almost a grimmace.

But there is an art to the short story, a skill that I either don’t possess, or really need to focus on. There is a certain kind of economy necessary to produce the kind of offering that has impact–that slaps you across the face and makes your ears ring.

I like to cultivate a story. The initial conflict is known to me at the outset, but I like to take my time getting there. I need to build the world, and create people and places that are real and have lives outside of the plot. We need to take an excursion here and there because these things frame the central plot and give it gravity and context. Most importantly, I feel at my most comfortable when I feel like the characters are writing the story for me. For that to happen, you need to give them a good long run up.

With short stories, it feels almost as though you can’t afford those things. You get a little time to set the table, but then you have to pull the table cloth out from under all that crystal and china, and it has to work and it has to work right now!

This isn’t to say that I won’t be trying to force some short stories out of my head. What I would love to do is set some short stories in Journey’s End–give my readers a kind of introduction to this world that I love so much. But, as I have been told, I must take care to provide true short stories and not just vignettes, which is what I feel I would produce if I were to try right now.

But it I am between books, and by the time this gets posted I will be on vacation, so who knows what may turn up?


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