Short Stories: Doing More with Less


Personally, giant Epics have often been my favorite novels to read.  The form allows a level of depth (into the characters and their histories) and breadth (amount of characters and span of events) that other forms do now allow.  Another favorite form of mine, however, is the short story.  I personally find them harder to write, as they do not allow as much time or character span as a giant epic.  What they do excel in is giving a fantastic window into a character and normally one event or a small series of events.  This smaller focus often can create more powerful scenes and dialogue than the larger form, for every word must be razor focused to do its job correctly.

My favorite form of reading short stories is anthologies.  Whether it is a linked literary theme, a shared world, or something even more random reading multiple short stories at the same time seems to enhance them. You can compare and contrast how different stories handle the same theme.  If all done by the same writer even if there are no obvious links you can see how the writer highlights different characters or concepts in a variety of ways. Anthologies allow context to be given to stories without forcing them to be part of some larger linked story.

The best part of the short story is the author is not tempted to put anything even slightly extraneous in there.  As a reader is perusing the story they know that everything noted upon has some reason to be there.  It is like viewing art made with small tight brush strokes that focus on a small area.   Word economy actually becomes an art form, and it’s also almost impossible for a reader to lose interest unless it’s very poorly written or does not connect with the reader at all.  Backstory must be kept to a sheer minimum and if it’s does not affect the immediate main plot or actions occurring, it is not there.  Much like what timing is to comedy pacing is to short stories.  It must be honed to perfection in order for it to operate as it should.

The tools authors use to create good short stories include keeping external descriptions to a minimum, using terse wording to paint an idea of the world the characters habit.  Exposition is also kept to a minimum, and only occurs in dialogue or very truncated monologues.  Every word spoken in a dialogue sheds light on either the characters or situation.  Repetition to reinforce them is obviously not suggested in short stories, but actions and ideas that reinforce a theme can occur instead.

I personally love the various George RR Martin edited short stories and have used those anthologies to widen my knowledge of authors.  On the smaller press and e publishing scale I am recommending Frances Pauli http://francespauli.com/ who if you go to her blog site http://francespauli.blogspot.com/ today and comment in her comments, she will give you a coupon for her anthology to be free (this is for smash words, so it is cross platform readable! ) I am not going to lie, free anthologies are some of my favorites, and a real fantastic way of knowing what an author can be like.

Today is the second day of the Genre Underground Road to WorldCon.  Stay tuned tomorrow for information on some free books associated with us!

Poll:

I prefer reading:

A)Giant Epics large enough to Kill Spiders

B) “Average” length books of 70-100 k words

C)Short Stories

World Info:

Today’s Info Tidbit is from Mandatory Paradise

Although scrolls and even a few books exist on Nimoa, in most cases the written word is not trusted.  People have been raised to believe the outside world before the Cataclysm lied, often.  They think the written word was a form of propaganda, and that people believe whatever they read was true, without thinking critically of it.  Citizens of Nimoa are taught they need to memorize information and think critically of anything they are told.  This is why their classes are primarily oral in nature, and most homework involves interacting with servants, parents, or other adults to help them memorize or learn information.

This distrust of the written word is so strong that even many teachers do not like it, with the exception of a few.  It is thought anything important enough to keep concrete in memory will be done by the Bureaucrats and the Library Mind.  Since the Senators have full access to the Library Mind they will keep all information “honest.”  At least, that is what is said.

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About mdkenning

E-book clockpunk fantasy author View all posts by mdkenning

2 responses to “Short Stories: Doing More with Less

  • amkenning

    Give me spider killing sized epics any day. I like my books to double as blunt weapons to bludgeon people with. 🙂

  • SuperCraftifFragilistic

    My favorites are series – average sized books that have their own plots, but then you can see character and world development throughout the series. Like a tv show. 🙂 Huuuge books just seem to drag on forever to me, unless they are really fast-reading and exciting like Harry Potter.

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