1. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does telling a story in short, ruin its chances of becoming a novel?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Fitzroy Zeph, Nov 16, 2013.

    I read somewhere recently, that if you are forming a story in your mind, and then tell it to someone, or write the short version, that it diminishes the desire and ability to the tell the story as a full length novel -- thereby ruining or at least hampering its chances of success. Suggesting that the unconscious brain has set the story in your mind and will be reluctant to change. This is obviously a general idea, and can't be true in every circumstance, but does is have some validity?
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    That would assume that your brain 1) is hardwired to know the difference between writing a novel and writing a short story and 2) that any story idea can be automatically consigned to one category or the other. Story ideas for novels can change radically after they have begun - I've experienced this myself. I started my current project with a three paragraph description of what I wanted to do - a historical novel with a present-day love story. How I am ultimately getting there is a story in and of itself.

    So, no, I would say it has little, if any, validity. It sounds to me like someone once had an idea for a novel, wrote a quick synopsis, and then decided it wasn't so great after all.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If a writer decides to write a short story, I'm sure he/she has a good reason for doing so (i.e., he/she can't make a novel out of it). Some ideas are just better suited for a story than a novel. So it makes sense why most writers wouldn't want to go back and turn a story into a novel. Also, I've heard that revisiting your own work can be boring.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    @thirdwind - I think one of us misunderstood the OP. I thought the question was whether, having conceived a story idea, if writing a short version of it or telling someone the idea would dampen the writer's ability to write it as a full novel. I didn't take it to mean that the writer conceived the idea as a short story and then decided to make it a novel, later on. Maybe he'll clarify.

    I do know that James Michener had a subplot written for Alaska that he was convinced by his editor to cut from the final version. He later turned it into a novella, The Journey.
     
  5. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    On the other hand, there have been some short stories that the authors published and later expanded into novels, both versions successful.

    I think it depends on you being able to step back from an idea and look at it from a different angle.
     
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  6. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @idle yes, there have been a number of those. Isaac Asimov's famous work Nightfall comes to mind.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game is another, as is Daniel Keyes' Flowers for Algernon.
     
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  8. Impressions
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    Impressions New Member

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    expanding your motif. in composition, Mozart, or probably any other great composer, could take a very short line of notes and create a whole symphony out of it.
    if the phrase was one second and the symphony was 40 minutes, calculate the ratio. 1:2400 about. and also add that the parts for the other instruments in the orchestra, probably 12 parts at least, so it's multiplied even. 1: 30,000.

    it really reminds me how you can write a whole story about a single word.
     
  9. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll try and find the original piece and quote it.

    I know, as is always the case, there are oodles of counter examples to a proposition. I wasn't trying to refute the authors assertion to this theory but rather see if others might have experienced something similar. The idea being, that a story is and of itself born once, sure the seeds of it are in our minds, but once fully expressed, by whatever medium, be it voice or pen, long or short, then the story becomes set in the creators mind and does not bend out of its original shape that easily. So if you have an idea, a story -- try to refrain from telling it, until you decide on what it is you want it to be, and then write it, believing it will be born to the shape you envisioned.
     
  10. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This happens to me sometimes. If I have an idea for a story and I tell it to someone, it kills my desire to write it. It's not wholly because the story is already expressed, and set in my mind; it's also that I don't feel the story really belongs to me anymore. It exists in someone else's head, so I feel like I don't really have the right to change it.

    It doesn't happen to me if I keep the story to myself. I can write a short version of it and still be enthusiastic about expanding it.
     
  11. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I guess I misinterpreted the OP. I'm fairly open about sharing ideas with others, and this has never killed my desire to write them. I guess it all depends on how comfortable you are with other people knowing what you're writing about.
     
  12. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, absolutely do NOT tell anyone your story. You're right, in some circumstances it can be OK. But it can absolutely go the other way. Why do some girls play hard to get? So you can get ensnared. It's the promise of something better, after a long period of tribulation and hardship.

    Telling a potential reader your story idea is short selling everyone. In your mind, you already see what your story could be, and that's what your envisioning as you relate it, but that's not what your listener is hearing. Even if he likes the idea, in the end, it's an idea, not a novel. He's going to care, maybe, to some extent, but it's going to be short lived, and you're going to be spent, having had a microwave relationship with your bud of an idea, which, had you nurtured in private, might have grown into a full fledged novel.


    From my own experience, motivation, inspiration, drive (let's lump them all together) for a specific WIP is finite. To finish something the length of a novel, you're going to need to use at least 90% of that initial drive. There are ways to refill the tank, of course, but there are also ways to prematurely spend it. One such way is to blab about your idea to the outside world. Often when I do this, for whatever reason, I feel like my "tank" suddenly has a leak, and it's much, much, harder to get to the finish line.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think sharing the story idea will kill your desire to write it. However, sharing the idea might make you feel obliged to write it when actually, it doesn't have enough in it for you to write, or you're simply not so thrilled with the idea after all. That turns into unnecessary pressure. It gets worse when week after week your friends keep asking you how it's going, and you don't want to tell them you're not gonna write it after all. You almost feel like you've let someone down, which is ridiculous, but that's how you feel - like you promised to do something and then didn't follow through.

    For that reason, and not because it'd kill your story but because you'll end up being nagged and pressured into doing something you might not want to commit to, I'd say sharing ideas to non-writing folk is a bad idea. Sharing ideas to writing folk is fine, because they get it :p they get that it's just an idea, that these things shift, that pauses and hesitations and perhaps the abandoning of an idea doesn't mean anything in terms of your integrity, your skill, or your commitment.
     
  14. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. Which is also why I don't outline. If I tell the tale once, in whatever form, it's been done. It's old. Writing it then becomes dictation or rewriting. I've learned the hard way to just write the story.
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This reminds me of a study I've mentioned before. As briefly as I can express it: Researchers staged a whacky event in a classroom full of students. (Say, a man in a gorilla suit and blue sneakers ran across the classroom, sang a verse of the National Anthem, juggled plastic chickens, and ran out again. I made that up.) Some students were asked to write down what they saw. Some were not. Some time later (a week?) , all were asked to write down what they saw. The ones who had written down their impressions at the time remembered *less* a week later than the ones who had not. Not only did the act of writing down their impressions fail to cement the events in memory, it actually harmed them.

    This seems related, but I would have trouble explaining why.
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If I write something down to record it, like the classroom event above, I find it is harder to recall from memory later on. However, if I go back and read what I wrote down, I find that the full event is recalled after reading just a few words.
     
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  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oddly enough (or maybe not) due to ADD, I had to take copious notes during lectures and while reading textbooks - never looked at those pages and pages afterward, but that seemed like the only way I could remember what was said/read.
     
  18. Impressions
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    Impressions New Member

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    +1 to @123456789
    It's like being interviewed about your book before its written. You talk about your passion and explain it. Then you go dry. Instead of reserving that enthusiasm for the actual writing.
     
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  19. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, me too. I try to never reveal what I'm doing until it's done ...because I start to lose enthusiasm for it. And people start asking me how it's getting on, and I find myself having to talk about it even more. No no no. I like to keep my ideas to myself.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sounds like total nonsense to me... possibly for the person/s pushing that notion it's just a dandy excuse for why they can't turn their own stories into novels...
     
  21. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't call it total nonsense, since several writers here have noted that it is, indeed, a hindrance to them. However, I would say that it is not necessarily true.
     
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  22. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    I finally found the text. It was from Dorothea Brande's Becoming a Writer. The interesting thing about his book is it was published in 1934 and is still in print. That of course has nothing to do with it being truly authoritative or not, but something about the book, is compelling enough for it to still be on the shelves of bookstores today. What she says about this subject makes some sense to me. The book is more of an inner-self-of-writing type, than comprised of methods and techniques like most writing books.
     
  23. Siena
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    Siena Active Member

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    I don't think so.

    Practicing with shorter stories helps develop the larger ones, in my experience.
     

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