I’m trying very hard right now to avoid the siren song of writing more short stories. After only writing one short story in 2008 and one in 2009 along with several flash stories at the end of the year, it’s a field I’m eager to dive into again. I want to spend six or seven months reading short stories and writing them and submitting them. But I don’t have that luxury right now. I’ve got revision to finish on a novel I want to get polished and published, so that’s where my effort needs to be placed. But a few things have popped up that have provided me some nice exposure and possible monetary compensation so I worked on them, and it was like that first drink after being sober for a week or more. It tastes so good and you immediately want to wallow in it all the time.
So instead I’ll talk about the short story I just finished. In many ways, this story shows how far I’ve come as a writer since I started writing short fiction heavily three or four years ago. My early weakness as a short story writer was not taking a story idea to it’s full potential. I’d get these fun little ideas and knock off 1500 or 1900 words of undeveloped, one-joke, nonsense and wonder why they couldn’t get published. But with this story, I took a 700 word flash fiction piece and fleshed it out into a fuller, deeper, and I think better story.
I used a technique that worked to great effect for me in CADAVER DOG and THE HEMINGWAY STRIPPER. Between scenes of the main narrative, I alternated scenes of backstory that showed more character development and added a fresh layer of detail to the main story. In CD the main story was a guy and his dog looking for a body. In the alternate scenes I talked about his early career as a police officer, how he came to be with the dog, and how a met his now dead wife. In THS, the main story is a woman lashing out in anger over an unwanted pregnancy, and the alternate scenes show her as a little girl and how she developed a tendency to stick things…eh, certain places. So naturally, with this story about a former stripper who may have to give one last dance to get home to see her dying mother, I flashed back from the action to how she became a stripper and what led to her quitting.
I haven’t tried this technique when writing a novel, and, in fact, I don’t know that I’ve found a technique that works for me with novels yet. Some may call it a formula, and to a certain extent that true, but in the beginning of a career is where you rely on your strengths to make the best showing possible. As I’m in this game longer looking for greater challenges that’s when I’ll stretch myself. For now I’ll wallow in my small area of expertise. How about you out there in ReaderLand? Gimmee your short story thoughts.