Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writing on Wednesday with Guest Kaye George

It's my pleasure to welcome Kaye George, who ponders the puzzling differences between writing short stories and novels. Welcome, Kaye! ~ Sheila

How I Do It

by Kaye George

A lot of authors have discussed the difference is between a short story and a novel. Others have talked about whether they are short story writers or novelists, many people only writing in one form.  

Let's assume you want to do both, and you've demonstrated that you can do both. Most likely you prefer one form to the other. I prefer writing short stories, but I can't resist the siren lure of the novel. Writing a "book" seems weightier than dashing off a little ole "story." Never mind that it can take weeks to put just a few hundred words together in the right way to get that little ole thing. 

I do write both and I'd like to discuss the difference between writing a short story and writing a novel. Everything below pertains to me and may not apply to anyone else on the planet. We're all different, aren't we? 

The biggest difference for me is that I can hold a short story in my head. I can conceive the whole thing and set it down from my brain without making copious notes about what's going to happen to whom, when, where, and why. Once the story is put down, I can make tweaks here and there and I know exactly what other parts will be affected and will need to be adjusted. It's like fitting a Tetris game together, or maybe fitting a Sudoku solution into the grid. 

A novel, however, takes planning. It's more like a chess game. (I'm a terrible chess player.) I can think up the characters and I can think up the basic plot. But there will also be subplots and secondary characters. These tend to run around behind my back and get into mischief. For me, I must work hard to keep track of where everyone is.  

If I don't have a system, I'm likely to have Imogene falling down a well in the afternoon, spending the night at home in the singlewide, and just discovering the well the next morning. If an important clue resides in the well, I have to have her discovering it before she falls down it. Well, even if the clue has nothing to do with the well, these things have to happen in order. 

I'm very likely to have my PI, Mike Mallett, work eleven days in a row without any weekends intervening. Or Dr. Fox could drive a red pickup into work at the vet clinic, and drive home in a Honda. Or Hortense could bake brownies and minutes later everyone would start eating chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. 

I just can't keep track of all the elements of a novel without making notes. 

Are the examples above because I naturally gravitate more toward the short form? I do find novels much more difficult, so that's likely true. I wonder what is hard about short stories to a natural-born novel writer. I'd love to hear!

Kaye George, nominated for an Agatha for Best Short Story in 2010, is the author of CHOKE: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery, which was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel of 2011. Her nominated story is in A PATCHWORK OF STORIES, which is a collection of some of her previously published stories. Other short stories are in FISH TALES: The Guppy Anthology, ALL THINGS DARK AND DASTARDLY, GRIMM TALES, and various online and print magazines. She reviews for "Suspense Magazine", writes for several newsletters and blogs, and has given workshops on short story writing and promotion. Kaye lives in Texas.

No comments:

Post a Comment