Friday, 14 October 2011

Why novelists should write short stories

Short story writing teaches economy of writing, and how to get across what matters in the least time. You can't bloat or get carried away in a short story, particularly for a magazine which pays by the word. You have to quickly let the reader know what is going on and make them root for one character who you're going to challenge so the reader can see what this person is really made of: listen to Kurt Vonnegut on Youtube (short stories).

So, most writers start in short stories then move onto novels. Often they stop writing 'shorts', which is a mistake. Don't take it from me, check out Stephen King on Youtube (sorry, you have to paste this one in). 

For scifi writers the short story form prevents the writer waxing about clever (and boring) technical stuff, you have to say what the tech does and rapidly move back to the characters (or better, just let the readers see them using it, and they will figure it out).

If a novel (or a series like a trilogy) is a relationship, then a short story is like flirting, or at most a fling. Short stories can be fun, and as long as they're just stories, there's no downside afterwards, and you can end up thinking about possibilities a long time afterwards.

The master of short stories is of course Raymond Carver who famously said, "No tricks, just tell the story."

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