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…