1. ~Artemis~
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    ~Artemis~ Member

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    Style Short stories forming a novella – how stand-alone should they be?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ~Artemis~, Mar 7, 2016.

    (Sorry in advance that I'm terrible at explaining myself, thus making this post ridiculously long.)

    I'm writing a collection of short stories that together basically form a novella. The stories are written in different tenses and POV throughout (at least at this point in time; it's something with which I'm experimenting) but they still work to form a cohesive whole when put together.

    My question is: How stand-alone should each story be? For the most part, each of my stories could be its own entity. In other words, you wouldn't have to read the rest of the collection in order to understand any one story. There are small tidbits in some of the stories that reference information given in previous stories, but nothing too major. But the first story in my collection is sort of like a prologue. It's the only one that could not be a story on its own. There is no conflict; its sole purpose is to explain the MC's beginning, as it were – how she became who she is in the following stories.

    To explain further (I never know how much or how little explanation is necessary, so I tend to possibly over-explain in order to compensate): my MC adopts a persona that affects her view of herself and the people around her. She calls herself Artemis, after the Greek goddess, and has two romantic partners whom she names Orion and Actaeon, based on their characters in the myths involving the goddess. But because the stories are from Artemis' POV, she just calls herself Artemis and them Orion and Actaeon, while everyone else has a normal name. It's significant to the plot that they have these names, but I needed to find a way to let the reader know that these were not their real names, but rather the names Artemis projects onto them. It was unnatural to do that within the main stories, and that's why I created the prologue.

    My whole academic career I've been told that a completed story needs to be able to stand alone (obviously); but since this work is sort of a collection of stand-alone stories and a novella that is one cohesive work, I'm not really sure about the prologue. If it's viewed as a prologue of a novella, it's fine; but if it's the first story in a collection of short stories, it's not.

    So I guess I'm just wondering what you guys think about the whole situation. I've gotten some mixed reviews from my in-person writing community, so I'm just hoping for a wider circle of opinions.

    Thanks!
     
  2. SethLoki
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    SethLoki Unemployed Autodidact Contributor

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    I've seen this done and done well (I think). Cloud Atlas* is a book of vaguely connected stories. I love opening it anywhere and reading any one of them. I have never worked out if the author is a genius with plot or just passes off for one by me reading more into what's written. But as I say, very fond of it. So my answer is yes, make them standalone but also do your best to thread in the connections and allude to something mysterious.

    * He's got form; his other books are on similar lines.
     
  3. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    My worry would be that they're forming a novella not a novel. With each story having to be complete in and of itself and so being able to be read without having read the others, there's bound to be some overlap and duplication,for example in world build. In a novella that might become a significant part of the book.

    However for a great example of where this is done to form a novel, you could try The Martian Chronicles.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  4. ReproveTheCurlew
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    ReproveTheCurlew Member

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    Yes, it certainly would work - it has been done well throughout history. For an early example, think Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, it starts with a General Prologue, which is sort of a frame for the stories which are to follow, or Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone, which is a collection of stories, fragments and poems about the First World War. From what I've gathered your collection/novella is more tied together through the coherence of the characters? I certainly think it could work. Why not? Trouble, as always, is finding an audience for it, obviously, but I think I would read it if you described it to me that way. Without having actually read any part of it I can't give you a conclusive suggestion though.
     
  5. Fawky
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    If you are capable enough to pull this off, it could definitely work. The only book I've read that was similar to this had an unfortunate author and went straight in the bin, however I know success stories have been created with he same. What you have to make sure of is that the stories don't repeat themselves too much and the main point that can't be stressed enough is the red thread. It is possible to write standalone stories that make sense by themselves, but however also hide a story that would only make sense with the entire collection. I would for sure be very interested to read this if you can pull it off.
     
  6. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I second Greg's concern about this being a novella. Novellas are tough to sell to publishers, and you'd have a much better chance of selling a novel. You could also sell each story individually in a magazine, which is also a better option (in my opinion) than trying to sell a novella. So what publishing approach you take will determine how stand-alone they need to be.
     
  7. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    How long are your short stories? If they are over 6,000 words apiece, and you have over five of them, that could approach a novel length, which as everyone else said in the thread, a novel would be a better sell to not just a publisher, but a reader as well. It gives the opportunity for each tale to stand on its own and be fully fleshed out, while the stories are numerous enough to notice the common themes/plot/characters that justify making it into one collection.

    Cloud Atlas as mentioned is a good example of this being put to practice. So is The Last Wish, a collection of tales with a Slavic mythos spin and a common character throughout.
     
  8. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    The Last Wish, by Andrzej Sapkowski?
     
  9. BoddaGetta
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    BoddaGetta Active Member

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    Indeed! Sword of Destiny is another in the same series following the same format.
     
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  10. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're allowed to have a prologue to a collection of short stories if you want. If that's how it best sets up expectations for the reader, just call it that.
     
  11. ~Artemis~
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    ~Artemis~ Member

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    Thank you all for your great advice and opinions! This actually started out being my "senior project" for the college I was attending, but long story short I'm no longer attending that school and so my senior project just became a project of my own. The school's requirements for writing students' senior project is a work that's about 100 pages – whether it's a collection of poems, short stories, or one piece depends on the author's preference; then the school self-publishes each student's work. So I guess I was thinking novella because that was the length it would have been for school, but it actually probably lean more towards being a novel-length piece. Wow, I'm writing a novel! :bigconfused: Sort of surreal to think about. So thank you all for helping me realize that, too!
     

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