The Pinocchio Effect

As a reader, do you frequently wish an author had taken the story further?  And as an author, have you ever written a story that was ripe for further exploration?

 

Question:

  1. To transform a short story into a full-length novel, what must occur?
  2. Don’t even attempt it. Pick up a hammer and smash your thumb repeatedly as a reminder of just how painful such an effort would be;
  3. Place the manuscript on a Medieval torture device known as The Rack and turn the crank until the tale is long enough;
  4. Plant the story in a sunny backyard spot under a mound of fertile soil. Add water, and wait until your novel reaches maturity; or
  5. Be prepared to take your characters, settings and plot where no one has gone before. (Theme song from Star Trek plays here)

We haven’t even addressed the question of why you’d want to turn your exquisite cupcake into a multi-layered creation worthy of Ultimate Cake Off. Because, to paraphrase adorable little Oliver Twist, you want more. Your story has a great premise, terrific characters, and you’d like to spend some quality time developing what happens next—or what came before.

So far, I’ve adapted two short works of fiction into novels. The first one was written as an hour-long television pilot. That teleplay eventually became a published 78,000-word young adult fantasy novel, The Last Great Wizard of Yden. The second story was written for a sword and sorcery magazine, but I always felt I’d rather arbitrarily stopped the action to keep the word count below 8,000. Now, Tournament of Chance is just under 80,000 words.

Have I inspired you to pull out one of your trunk stories and get cracking? You might want to consider the challenges before you move forward. Be prepared to dig painfully deep to make your adaptation readable. Writing short stories isn’t necessarily easier than writing longer length fiction, but it is different. The former might be akin to a fifty-yard dash whereas the latter is more like a marathon. As my manuscripts developed, I was constantly exhorting myself to try harder—to be more creative, funnier and wittier. I had to trot a veritable ‘parade of horribles’ in front of my heroes in order to give them higher mountains to climb. If I didn’t sit back with a gasp and think, How awful! I can’t do that to him/her…my efforts weren’t good enough. In other words, just because the characters, setting, premise and a rudimentary plot are already established, that doesn’t absolve you from the responsibility of actually writing the darn book. Did you think it did? Then the answer to Question 1 above will be A. Ouch.

~ Suzanne

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