Monday, September 22, 2014

The Joy of Writing Short Stories

I recently wrote a short horror story for an upcoming event over on the Pen & Muse blog (more about that event soon). It was a nice change of pace, as I’ve been slowly making my way through edits on Lovecraft’s Pupil, and switching from the novel to a bite-sized story was fun.

The story I just wrote is called “Love’s Grove,” and I had four thousand words to work with. My finished story was exactly that number (depending on which word count tool you use), and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. I had to make some tough decisions about what to cut and what to keep, but I think the end product is stronger for those decisions.

I love writing short fiction because of the challenge it presents. It’s the leanest and meanest way of telling a story, and it forces you to strip out everything that isn’t absolutely necessary, especially if you’re trying to keep your story within a certain word count. That’s not to say a novel should be filled with irrelevant fluff, but I can be a little more self-indulgent with longer form fiction.

I feel like short horror stories are also a great value proposition for both the writer and the reader. As a writer, I get to create something that hits hard, scaring the reader and then running off into the night, leaving them to ponder what happened afterwards. On the reader’s side, they get a great payoff for the small amount of time they have to invest to experience the story.

The editing process for a short story is more fun for me as well, because I can see the whole thing at once. It’s easier to mold, and I can immediately tell if an addition or subtraction works. With a novel, the whole is much larger, and in some ways it’s harder to get a feel for how a small change might affect the larger story.

So as much as I love the world-building I get to do with my novels, and the huge canvas I get to paint on, I love writing short stories as well. A healthy mix of both keeps things interesting for me, and hopefully my readers as well.