Tag Archives: short stories

Cutting Off My Stories To Spite My Face

In this information-saturated society, the advent of e-readers has presented more opportunities for writers than ever before.  Not only is it easier for an author to publish his or her work, but also the demand exists for works of all lengths. Who is the target market for e-reader shorts?  Commuters, workers on break, younger readers with shorter attention spans, and those people who want to sample an author’s work without committing themselves to a pricier longer-length novel?

So where’s the rub?

Around the water cooler, I’ve been hearing authors bemoan lackluster reviews for their shorts stories, novelettes and novellas.  “I would have rated this story higher, but it was too short,” or “I wanted more,” seems to be the most frequent reaction.

Is what we have here “a failure to communicate” (to paraphrase “Cool Hand Luke”) between reader and author? If the reader’s reaction is disappointment (even though the work is clearly labeled for page number, and priced accordingly) should authors be writing these shorts at all?

Okay.  Time to assess.

Some authors release free prequels to longer-length works as a successful sales technique, but I’m not certain if this is exactly the same thing.  Are these prequels ‘samples’ or completed stories?  Does it matter? Is free the critical factor?

When I write a fantasy short, I try to establish the characters quickly and effectively and thereafter focus on one caper or adventure.  The pace is quicker, but there still must be a character arc and a satisfying ending.  I can write these shorts in a relatively short period, but I take all the time I need to create a work of which I can be proud.

I’d love to hear YOUR opinion on shorts.  Do you think shorts are worth writing?  Do you buy shorts or would you only purchase one if it were free?  When you finish a great short do you react with a sigh of satisfaction or do you have the urge to throw your e-reader across the room in frustration?

My inquiring mind wants to know.

~ S.G. Rogers

Amaleen Ison Learns to Love Shorts

No, not THOSE kind of shorts. 😀 Short stories.  Novellas.  Novelettes.  UK author Amaleen Ison is my guest today as she blogs about her journey toward appreciating shorter works of literature.  ~ S.G. Rogers

Learning to Love Short Stories – Amaleen Ison

Not every story is a novel.  Some ideas are just not long enough to sustain fifty-thousand plus words. But are short stories or novellas any less interesting or enjoyable because of their length?

Before I started writing I shunned short stories, considering them unworthy of my time or appreciation. They couldn’t be any good because they were…short. Daft, huh? My aversion began in school. Teachers forced me to read and evaluate short stories I had no interest in. I tarred all shorts with the same brush: boring and educational. It never occurred to me they could be read for pleasure. But I’ve discovered from speaking to family and friends that many people feel the same way.

Having read and written numerous short stories and novellas, I’m here to tell you that short tales can be exciting, filled with enchanting characters that tug at your heartstrings and despicable ones that make your insides shrivel. Mrs. Cruickshank, the antagonist from my novelette, The Trouble with Nightingale, is one of my favourite creations. She’s totally disgusting, and yet it’s her awfulness that entices the reader into the narrative.

Excerpt from The Trouble with Nightingale:

“The sixty-something skank with a too-tight pencil skirt, crooked beehive and five-inch stilettos sucked hard on a Marlboro. Smoke hung about her head like a grotty aura. Scarlet lipstick leaked into the creases around her lips, and canary-yellow eye shadow meandered past her squiggly-pencilled brows, giving the impression she’d applied it all without the use of a mirror.”

Designed to read in one sitting, short stories, novelettes, and novellas usually begin close to the tales conclusion and speed towards the final, and hopefully unexpected, revelation. They’re a whirlwind ride of conflict and unexpected consequences that ramp up emotional energy. With a limited number of words at the author’s disposal, the writing tends to be more concise than in a novel. Every word carefully selected, every sentence either developing character or driving the story towards its conclusion. Even descriptions must pay triple duty, setting scene, creating atmosphere, and foreshadowing plot.

Excerpt from The Trouble with Nightingale:

“Millie prodded the lift’s grimy call button and glanced over her shoulder. Shadows thick with movement skulked beneath the concrete stairwell, darting away from each flicker of the orange security light above her head.

She leaned an ear toward the graffiti-scratched doors and listened for the rattle-clunk of the descending elevator. Like the rest of Nightingale Estate after dark, the mechanism remained eerily quiet.”

So when you’re next perusing the pages of an on-line book store, why not purchase a short story, novelette, or novella? They contain the same elements as a novel but in a bite size package, bursting with concentrated conflict to set your heart rate galloping. Like me, you might be surprised at the incredible characters and adventures you discover.

~ Amaleen Ison

The Trouble with Nightingale

When seventeen year old Millie Scrubbings moves to new digs on East London’s Nightingale Estate, she believes she’s finally closed the door on a childhood dictated by strangers. But overnight, her peaceful high-rise turns bonkers, and a series of grisly murders leaves Millie frightened and more helpless than ever. Millie must accept her lead role in rescuing Nightingale from its descent into anarchy, or risk all Hell breaking loose.

$1.99 e-book available at Musa Publishing, BN.com and Amazon.

Amazon Reviewers:

“This story was simply brilliant. All of the ingredients of a fantastic read were there–fast pacing, clever writing, high-stakes, and heavy on the occult and paranormal…” – Michelle

“Mrs. Cruikshank is an absolutely gruesome character, and Fabian is beyond funny. The combination of horror and comedy gave me several laugh out loud moments and quite a few more involuntary smiles as I read.” – Aimee

“There is a definite feel that Millie has many more adventures in her future, and I can see this story spawning something of a series similar to The Dresden Files or Supernatural. I hope the author, Amaleen Ison, explores her further.” – R.C.

To follow Amaleen Ison, visit her blog www.amaleenison.com, Twitter @AmaleenIson, or visit her on Facebook.

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

Blogging at Penumbra and Hogging the Limelight

How is a short story like a dessert? Come on over to Penumbra and find out in my blog post entitled The Dessert Tray!  Mmm!

Vanilla Bean Cheesecake photo: © Eugene Bochkarev | Dreamstime.com


Plus, I’m being interviewed at Sharon Ledwith: I came. I saw. I wrote blog.  Check that out HERE.

– S.G. Rogers