Sunday, March 06, 2005

Short Stories Are Long Efforts

I've mentioned that books should not be too long. This gets even more crucial in short-story writing. I'm the wrong person to give advice about writing short stories, because frankly I'm not very good at it.

I have learned great patience when writing novels (One year's work to finish the 100,000-word book? Okeli-dokeli-do!).... but I get incredibly impatient when I sit and write a short story (Spend two whole WEEKS to polish that 1,500-word short? Never!).

Why is that? Feel free to offer explanations.

A recent short story I wrote - in an impatient rush, hastily revised - has now been posted on my homepage. "The Last Weblog Of Jonathan Lippincott" is a pastiche of H.P.Lovecraft's horror tales, set in a present-day environment. It's also a satire of weblogs, and can be read either as a morbid joke, or an "urban legend" type of horror story...

The main part of said story uses the weblog format - including the Comment field where readers can leave their feedback. (Note how the fictional "comments" to the fictional blog posts provides a sort of "Greek Chorus" to the story, and emphasize the spooky mood!)

This may seem like a new trick, but is actually quite old. A classic example of a story presented as a series of "found" documents - letters, diaries, newspaper clippings - is Bram Stoker's Dracula. An even older example, Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740) is written as a series of letters. (Click those links - it's free literature online! Free books, damn it! What are you waiting for?)

I encourage any aspiring writer to use this "found document" stylistic device. It's a tremendously effective "infodump" technique, and brings a "you-are-there" urgency to any story.

Or how about combining this trick with an uncommon choice of genre: "The sole witness to the meeting, a housemaid, claims she heard Mr. Butler say: 'Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn,' before he left the house. Ms. O'Hara has refused to make any statements to our Atlanta correspondent."

No comments: