Mar 14, 2011

Goodbye, Short Stories

With the advent of the Nebula Awards, I decided to take a peek at the list and read some free stories. Now, the first stories I've read (but alas, I am not close to finishing any one), "Ponies" and Amal El-Mohtar's (May she win the John W. Campbell award!) "The Green Book", I decided to hold of on the novellaa and novellete.
I've always been one for short stories and flash fiction, and as you guys might know, Epic Fantasy. I can tolerate the length of an Epic Fantasy depending on the quality of the story, but me and works over 4000 words...its always been a bit of trouble. But then I read two stories on that list, remembered a few novellas/novelletes that I loved, and am eager to read more.
Christopher Kastensmidt's "The Fortuitus Meeting of Gerard von Oost and Olodura" had my mind running as I'm essentially reading a Sword and Soul story by a non-Black man (needless to say, I friend requested him on Facebook immediately)! Aliette De Boddard's "The Jaguar House, in Shadow" was another great read! Today I will download "The Sultan of the Clouds", read Ted Chiang's Nebula nominated novellete, and all the others on that list. I also read Tobias Buckell's "The Fall of Alacan" on Subterranean Magazine, which is a prequel to his novella "The Executioness" (it should be noted, that Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Alchemist", a novella set in the same world, is nominated for the Nebula for best novella). I remembered the thrill I had reading Ted Chiang's "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", Yoon Ha Lee's "The Territorialist" and yesterday, read her story "Ghostweight" for a second time.
Needless to say, I'm beginning to love novellas/novelletes.
Which brings me to the fact that now I want to write them. I feel grounded in short stories and flash fiction. Also, in sorts, I feel limited. I've never written anything decent over 3000 words, and, honestly, the thought of writing something between 7000-20000 words scares me. But, I have to write it sooner or later, right? If I want to write novels, one day, then I must try for a novellete, and then a novella, right? I've thought that my attempts at a novellete be at 7000 words, max (the original plan was 8000 words as per SFWA requirements for "Best Novella", but I'm not even professionally published, so who am I kidding?). Reading more novelletes/novellas will also help me understand structure and most importantly, how to keep an audience interested. So, for now, it's goodbye to the short stories until I feel grounded in novelettes. Till then!


Christopher said...

Thanks again, Brandon! So glad you liked the story.

Different things happen for different writers, but I can say that the difference between short story and novelette length for me seems to have a lot to do with the number of characters involved. My short stories tend to focus on one or two characters with minimal participation from others. As I add relevant characters in, the interactions and situations that occur boost the word count. In the "Fortuitous Meeting", I have about ten characters who participate in actual conversations, sometimes three or four at a time. At that point, the length just seems to comes naturally.

The trick then becomes giving each one their own voice and personality...something I'm working on in my writing.

Brandon Markham said...

I hear you on that one. Creating an individual's voice, for me this is, harder than creating the personality of the character.
However, I think that if you know your character's personality and history well, then his or her voice should be able to speak in your head. A character speaks from his or her history, which in turn is shaped by his or her worldview.
For personality, I think twisting some of the genre's tropes in roles a start. I base personality on the character's history, working from when he or she was born, to the present. I usually have this fram of mind: everybody starts out as happy children. Life goes on, and different things happen to us.
I can have a character who was abused, and his mother smiled at him whenever she hit him, and no one would help in his village even though they knew. Now that character is not evil, but smiles when he sees someone abused, because he remembers this. He won't trust him, and it'll show in his voice and body language, he'll dodge using certain words. He'll lie.
Sorry for the long post, but you know, gotta help a fellow writer and friend, and I hope this helps :)

Christopher Kastensmidt said...

Great notes!