Length

A couple of weeks back, I wrote a post about Epic Fantasy. One of the elements I emphasized in that article was length. I know many people may disagree with me on this front, but I feel that length really does have a lot to do with the story being told. I’m currently struggling with length in my own writing, so I’m writing a post to discuss my feelings on various lengths and forms of storytelling.

First, here are the official SFWA definitions of the genres. There’s an additional one that you’ll sometimes see, <999 words is often called flash fiction.

I’ll take a brief moment to look at one other type, the six word story. These things are cool. Here are some samples. I don’t think I’ll ever try to write any of those.

Now that we have definitions out of the way, what really prompted this post? My writing. I have written two short stories in the past two weeks. Yes, that means I finished another one already this month. It was one I’ve been meaning to tell for a long time, It was just so dark I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate to ever write. Well, I wrote it. I’ve re-read it, and while it needs some minor edits, I feel that it’s done and complete. And dark. Very dark.

So my two short stories? They’re at 3,437 and 6,104 words. I was aiming to write something right along the border of the 1,000 word category that I could trim down into flash fiction territory, and then start submitting. I know a lot of places these days prefer shorter stories, both because they take less space to print, and because they cost less. (Most places pay by the word.) I also know the value of being able to tell a short, concise story, and still be able to get across setting, character, and plot and have it all be cohesive and beautiful, and the power that kind of writing can bring to longer works.

It’s something I really wish I could do. I may just have to accept that I can’t, though. There’s just too many things about the genre of Epic Fantasy that I love. I want to write stories that give a sense of a real world, not just a room disconnected from reality, with no reason to exist. I want my characters to feel real, not just be there purely for the story. I want all of the things that most novels should do, and I’m trying to compress them down into as little space as I can. This means that my short stories are going to be longer.

I will also note that I don’t enjoy reading short stories very much. I try to invest myself in the characters I’m reading about, and I feel cheated when reading short stories because I either don’t have enough to understand and become invested in the characters, or I become invested and bam, it’s over. This means that I don’t read a lot of short stories, and maybe that’s part of the reason I have trouble writing them.

(A brief list of short stories I do like: The Most Dangerous Game by Robert Connell. To Build a Fire by Jack London. That’s about it, sadly.)

I’d also like to note that the 3400 word short feels pretty much complete. I’m going to revise it, but don’t expect it to end up anywhere over 3600, and I’m hoping I can actually trim it down after I revise. The 6100 word story, though. It feels like it needs to be even longer. There are some things I didn’t explain.

I’m still going to write my short stories for the months for the rest of the year, revise, and submit them, as per my schedule and goals.

I might even start to enjoy doing that.

But my love will always be longer forms. I want to take my characters on a journey, and I want my readers to invest in them. I want the investment to be worth it, too. I also love exploring worlds and consequences of new ideas. I’m going to start, probably tomorrow, brainstorming on my next novel-length project. It’s what I love. I’ll let you guys know how it’s going. Until then, keep writing.

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