Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Wednesday Wanderings

Picking up the train of thought from last week, I learned a lot from writing short stories.  With fewer words comes the need for sharper focus:  I had to develop the skill of building a story around a single moment, a single decision, and making that complete.  It's probably this process that built my liking for the "yes, but ..." ending - the conclusion that fulfills the story goal, but sets up ongoing complications.

Short stories also helped with my sense of plot.  Working on the micro level (comparatively), I had to figure out the direction of the tale before I began, or I risked wandering ... and wandering into novelette or novella territory.  I know there are other writers who can start a short story without an ending or outline, but I was never one of those writers, and in a few cases, I found out the hard way.  Those rambly tales are best forgotten.

I also learned quite a bit about incorporating worldbuilding into fiction ... and some about faking it.  Many of my short stories have allusions to cultural, physical, historical elements of the world - brief glimpses that show the workings beneath the surface.  Except, in almost every case, it's an illusion:  the glimpse is the only truth, and the reader knows as much as I do.  Well ... almost.

But it's not all faking it.  Again, space is at a premium in a short story, with less room - and reader patience - for extended descriptions.  Sentences setting the scene often do double, even triple duty, contributing to the plot or understanding of character.  An example I often like to give is instead of just stating that a character is tall, something like, "She was obnoxiously tall, looming a head and more over the locals," also gives some information about aforesaid locals ... and a hint of snarkiness in the narrator, perhaps.

All of these skills, this learned economy, translated back into my novels - or at least, I hope it has.  Even if that's not the case, I enjoyed the ability to dip my toe into far more worlds than I might have, had each demanded a novel of its own.

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