This week my very first short story EVER came out in the Love and Darker Passions Anthology from Double Dragon Publishing. The cover is creepy and I haven’t read everyone’s stories yet that are in it, but I’m totally proud of it. The story is titled “The Man Who Loved Medusa” and it’s the very first story in the book.
(I mean really, look at that cover. It gives me the willies.)
(Also note, if you go the Amazon page you can get a sneak peek at the first bit of Medusa’s story.)
When I was invited to do a story for this anthology, my first worry was that I wouldn’t know how to write anything less than 90 thousand words. But as it turned out, I was able to manage this story in under 5 thousand words. During the process, however, I have to note that there were several differences between novel writing and short story format.
Let’s face it, you just plain don’t have time to fill the reader in on all the aspects of the world, setting, characters, plot and what have you when you’re working with a short story. Every time I wanted to go off on a tangent, I had to pull myself back and putt a 1″ picture frame around what I was trying to say. (Thank you, Ann Lamont, for the 1″ picture frame analogy in your book Bird by Bird.)
Using Lamont’s analogy here became extremely helpful in writing this short story. It kept me focused on the who, what, why, and how of the story in front of me. Note I left out the when and where of the situation. I learned very quickly that everything — every word, description, and dialog line — had to serve multiple purposes. The when and where came out within the framework of answering the who and what of the story.
This was supremely tricky for me, but I’m very proud of the way it came out. And in fact, I was invited into another anthology for next year dealing with folk tales, which brings me to the second portion of this post; I finished my second short story ever.
This second short story I am calling, for right now, Fish Wish. It’s just the rough draft so far, but I can tell you that I threw lunar bases, moon dust, space travel, near asphyxiation, divorce, the folk tale The Fisherman’s Wife, and the term nano-fishers into a big blender and pressed puree! And that’s not even the best part. The best part is that I managed to do it all in less than 2 thousand words.
But really, the challenge of writing short stories has made a vast improvement on my novel writing as well. While I can get away with a longer word count in a novel, the task of allowing setting, dialog, and every word to do more than one thing in respects to my storytelling is … well … wonderful.