Short Stories

We went to the September Sisters in Crime Nor Cal (henceforth known as SinC NC) meeting a couple Saturdays ago and, along with some most excellent food and beverage (this was a potluck at one of the Sister’s houses), we were treated to a talk by Sophie Littlefield on the subject of short stories.

Sophie is also a romance writer and recently signed a three book deal.  Unlike a lot of novelists, Sophie loves to write short stories. She’s one of the few I’ve met who actually thinks its easier to write a short story than a novel.  I personally cringe at the thought of having to wrap up a story in fewer than 12,000 words and this is only in the horror or fantasy genre.

I have written short stories.  My first published piece was actually a short story in Cat Fantastic IV, an anothology edited by the feline loving sci-fi and fantasy author Andre Norton. The story was co-written with afore-mentioned pal Brad.  I’ve published two other short stories, both with zombies as their central theme.  One hard-boiled zombie noir and the other black humor set in Hollywood.  I had fun writing all three, but never any calling to write more until I wrote a story for my boyfriend.  This story, CHAMPAGNE, is what got me my first introduction to Ravenous Romance (the name is just calling out for a romantic zombie story, I’m telling ya…) and now I have another short story due at the end of the week.   There’s a little bit of denial going on there… but I’ll get it done!

My friend Brad Linaweaver is another prolific short story writer.  He’s constantly writing something for this anthology or that magazine and while he’s primarily known for his science fiction, he happily surfs all genres.   If I recollect correctly, Sophie has written in every genre except for science fiction.  Maybe these two should get together and breed a race of short story writing super geniuses.  Hmm…

The beginning, middle and end part of short stories is difficult for me.  I recently went through a box of old writing from grade school up through high school and most of my short story assignments ended with a ‘to be continued’ cliffhanger rather than a definitive conclusion. I’m sure I must have driven my teachers crazy.  I did have a few completed stories in the bunch,including a forgotten series called Desert Horse I’d written about the adventures of Justin and his horse Thunderbolt…and a couple of rather horrific pieces with evil twins coming back from the dead and vampires (the teacher marked these with a large A and the admonition ‘try writing something less morbid next time.’  But mostly what I’d written were the beginning of novels. I was amazed how many half-started ideas I’d had when I was growing up.

So I am in much admiration of people with the ability to tell a complete story in a few pages or even less than 12,000 words.  No padding.  Nothing extra.

I’ve only succeeded at absolute bare bones once, back when I first took pencil to paper and wrote my very first story at the age of five or six.  It was called THE END OF THE SUN.

One day the sun came out.
The next day the sun did not come out.
It was the end of the sun.

Beginning, middle, end.  Nothing extra.  You’d think I’d have been a natural at this short story stuff by now…

9 thoughts on “Short Stories

  1. I’d say you’re doing fine. I must hunt up Cat Fantastic IV and the other books in the series. If they have the versatility of the Chicks In Chain Mail series they have to be good. There’s nothing strange about your preference for the novel. The form gives the space to really explore your characters and their motives. And sometimes the longer the story the better. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss a word of The Peruvian Pigeon. Go with the form you like best But I know you can work in the shorter form with flair. (Your two submissions to the Homepage show as much.) Heck there are a bunch of us who will enjoy whatever you come up with. LOL.

  2. I always quite liked the short stories that only had the middle bit. It feels a bit like interupting an event that has already begun, getting to see the most exciting bits and not really knowing why it was happening or how it tied up. Frustrating on occasion, but also entertaining.

  3. I have ordered peruvian pigeon and am looking forward to reading it when it drops through my letter box. Could be a couple of weeks though. Humph.

  4. You know, there are some people who would hear Ravenous Romance and not think of zombies. Crazy, huh?

    I do like the tightness of short stories. They’re fun to read. I like to keep an anthology in the car so I can have something quick to read at stops or waits. Sure beats trying to keep up with a book length plot over a long period of time. And it’s amazing the great stories that writers tell is such a short space.

  5. Aw, Jack, you are the best! And it WOULD be zombie short stories that were easiest for me to write…

    Thank you, Toast! I love your online moniker, btw. If I meet you and say ‘you’re Toast,’ you’ll know I”m not threatening you, right?

    Helen, that’s just crazy talk! 🙂 Ravenous equals hungry equals flesh eating ghouls! It’s just the way it is.

    I love reading short stories and yeah, an anthology is one of my favorite carry around to read books. Like the two Books of the Dead, for example. Heh. I’m currently reading LITTLE SISTERS, the first anthology by the SInC group.

    Dani, I”ll do my bestest! I swear!

  6. I agree the short story is an art form in itself. Hats off to any novelist who can double as a short story writer, because most of us novelists are waaaaay too long-winded to get it all in under 12K words – lol. Actually, though, come to think of it, my last novel. Owen Fiddler, DID start as a short story I wrote two years ago as a Christmas story. It was so well received I decided to expand it into a novel. Hmmmm – mebbe I should write more short stories? LOL

  7. I’ve never written a short story that I can leave alone. By the time I get those 3,000 or 4,000 words down, I want to know more. I keep trying it because it’s good practice.

  8. Marvin, I’d love to read the original story that led to Owen Fiddler. I hope it was less depressing than what I’ve read so far of the book – I am counting on a happy ending, you! 🙂 I figure there has to be one ’cause I’ve read the previews.

    Kat, I suspect we are much alike that way. I’m writing a mile a minute on my current short story and have to stop myself from fleshing things out too much to avoid running WAY over the word count…

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