Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Is writing short stories first a good way to start ‘breaking into’ writing novels?

Good question. One that author S.L. Farrell tries to answer:
The skills you learn in short fiction don’t necessarily translate into equal skills for writing long fiction. The pacing is different: a short story needs to start as close to the end as possible while a novel may start much further back from the climax. The way you build a novel is often not something that you can duplicate in short fiction, as novels use a more intricate structure (and on the flip side, short stories can often use wildly experimental methods that work within the confinement of a short story, but which would get deadly tiresome to the reader in a novel). Scope is different, since short stories tend to use a microscope while a novel uses a wide-angle lens: you can tell the tale of a battle in short fiction, but you can’t give us the whole five-year long war. Setting is different: you generally have one or two setting in short fiction; in a novel you might have dozens — which means that the worldbuilding has to be much more in depth; you won’t get away with a painted backdrop in a novel. Plotting is different: short fiction tends to have a ’straight-line’ plot; a novel’s plot is generally more complex, and has the added complexity of sub-plots supporting the main plot. Characterization is even different: the character arc in short fiction will usually show the ‘top’ of the arc — that defining moment when the protagonist’s life is changed — while in a novel, the writer can show much more of the arc. Characterization is generally slower and deeper in a novel.

3 comments:

  1. That was helpful. I struggle terribly with writing short stories. I struggle even more trying to understand short stories!

    I like novelists because they have verbal diarrhea.

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  2. Glad that was of help! I like both short stories and novels. Short stories require less investment of time which is always a plus. Whether you understand them or not depends on the story I think. I don't rather like opaque short stories myself. But I do sometimes like the ones that don't seem to have any point to them at all, like the ones by Raymond Carver and some of Haruki Murakami's.

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  3. Ooh, btw, why did Redwhite Spot move from LJ to Blogger? Not that I'm complaining, in fact I much rather prefer it. Your RSS feed on LJ didn't work so I never knew when there was an update!

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