Monday, April 7, 2008
Why write short stories?
I believe that many-- perhaps even most-- writers write short stories to build a "name" that will, hopefully, help them get that novel they've been working on for the past three years published. They (we) want the publishing credits to show that someone besides Mom likes their (our) writing. They (we) might even make a few bucks at it and learn that, hey, it is possible to get something published.
Who stars in those shorts? I write almost all of my short stories with Bo Fexler as the protagonist. She is the main character of the novel I'm working on. How many writers use the same character(s) in their shorts as they use in their novel? I haven't seen very many recurring characters. A few, but not many.
There are some advantages, I think, to writing shorts with the novel characters. One of the big ones would be character development. Not every scene or scenario that tests the protagonist is appropriate for a novel. But those scenes can be tried out in a short story. The more short stories, the more the writer will know about how the protagonist acts, reacts, thinks and feels. With Bo, I know her inside and out. I am comfortable enough that I can leave details out and do not have to explain Bo's actions. Her actions are consistant in the novel with what they are in the short stories.
I'm not going to discredit short stories written just because an idea fluttered in like a Monarch on a summer breeze. There is always a place for random short stories with characters never seen again. I'm just going to advocate using the short story to give the characters in the novel more depth, history, and layers.
And while your at it, you might just get some fans for your character. Or so I've found.
Now, one last thing on this. I think I would have a much harder time writing short stories if I didn't write them with Bo Fexler. I would probably write far less stories, too. Since I'm using Bo, I know who she is, how she acts, who she knows, and where she's at. The biggest decisions regarding these basics is when the story is set (before or after her move to Michigan.) Then it's a matter of writing the case. In the case, I don't have to worry much about the background of any of the characters since they're fleeting and usually two-dimensional. I've got a large chunk of work done before I even set fingers to keyboard.
So, what do you get out of your short stories?