1. IrishLantern
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    IrishLantern Member

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    Short stories vs Novels

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by IrishLantern, Feb 4, 2012.

    I always have a problem whenever I sit down to write short stories and try to come up with ideas. My ideas always feel too long for a short story. I can never reign it in to just one time or place. Every new idea seems like the first in a trail of dominoes that I just cant help knocking over to see where this idea trail will go.

    I did a creative writing course last year and part of it was writing short stories which I struggled with a lot. The piece I wrote ended up being something I had plans for continuing on further, but felt more like a prologue to me than anything else.

    So, I'm wondering, how do you guys approach your ideas for short stories? Do you use any particular method, or am I just looking at this in completely the wrong way?
     
  2. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I have similar issues, so I'd like to see input on this -- good question.

    One of my issues is that I think of larger, longer plots with subplots most of the time, rather than quick stories. I have tried practicing short story writing by letting small moments in my life inspire me -- a line of dialogue I think of, a thing a character might cling to, a place a character saw before he died. I take these and write freehand to see what comes out.

    My problem then, though, is that I see the story as a beginning or a middle, and have trouble envisioning an end, unless I were to stretch it out into a novel-sized story.
     
  3. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    In terms of short stories vs novels I saw an interview with Neil Gaiman where he said not all novelists are great short story writers, and not all short story writers are great novelists. I completely with this. You need to find the genre and word count that is your niche.

    I write quite a few short stories in my spare time. I have a lot of tips, but one thing that helps me a lot is creating an image in my head that brings out some type of emotion. EXAMPLE - Okay a character goes for a walk at midnight on a foggy night and he see's a 4 year old girl standing in the middle of the road, in a church dress, with her head pointing at the ground. That's a creepy image right? Now you just fill in the blanks: Who is this character going for a walk? Where is he going? Who is this girl? Why is she just standing in the middle of the road like that?
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short stories and novels are two different animals and are written in different ways. Some can do both, some can do one or the other. Follow your interest.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have the same problem, and I've written a lot of short stories. What I've learned is that, in short stories, very little really happens. You just can't cram a lot of plot into less than 5,000 words. I've become pretty good at recognizing that an idea I have will not work for a short story just because there's too much stuff in it. I'd have to expand it into a novelette or a novella.

    But a short story should have a point, a theme. It should leave some kind of emotional residue in the reader's mind. When considering an idea for a short story, try to identify that. Try to bring it out in the writing. Some of Hemingway's short stories are great in that way, like "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" and "Hills Like White Elephants." They're very short, and consist of little more than conversations between two people, but they hit hard. Almost nothing happens, but a point is driven home like a hammer hitting a nail. That's the power of a short story: it doesn't spread its effect out over many pages, many reading sessions. With a short story, it's BANG! and you're done.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Probably, the best way to understand how to write short stories is to read a lot of them. They aren't just novels in miniature, but as shadowwalker says, they're completely different beasts. In the same way as you would read novels to understand how they work and how to write them, you need to do the same thing with short stories.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto that!

    if you're not a good and constant reader of good short stories, you're bound to have trouble trying to write them... and don't just read them, study how the best are constructed and written... once you've absorbed enough of that, you should find yourself able to master the art... if you have the talent for it, that is... not everyone does, so it's no disgrace if you don't...
     

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