Thursday, February 11, 2010

Losing My Virginity

I was a short story virgin until this week.

I lost my virginity Monday when I finished a story I’d begun last Thursday. Not a big deal for many of you. But, as I touched on a few weeks ago, the short story is a form that has eluded me. Then, two weeks ago, after finishing a novel I spent nine months on, I had an idea for a story. The character I imagined and his dilemma seemed, for lack of a better word, short. The story ended up being fewer than 6,000 words.

Gary Phillip’s guest column got me on the topic of short fiction. I wrote my Dec. 30 blog titled Stories & Novels: How different are they?. In that column I asked a lot of questions, one of which was: Are most writers either novelists or short story writers, not both?

I still have more questions than answers on the topic. But I can say the reason I wrote the short story is simple: It was the next story to appear to me. So I did what I do. And what do you know, I like the way it turned out.

Some people have said that writing is writing, regardless of the form. This would indicate that if one can write a novel s/he surely possess the tools to craft a short story. I agree that the mechanics of fiction writing (sound diction; a feel for syntax; the ability to plot and pace; an ear for dialogue; true imagery, etc) never change. Yet not all stories are the same because those who experience them and then attempt to write them are wired differently.

Alice Walker said she never picks the poems she writes. They pick her. Previously, the stories I had to tell were always 70,000 to 100,000 words long. The reason I never wrote short fiction before is because I never had the urge to try.

Is short story writing the same as novel writing? I’m not sure. But I did have a new experience this week.

And I liked it.

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