I'm having one of those days when I feel like I don't know anything. It'll pass but while I'm feeling bewildered, I thought I should pay attention to what's confusing me. I've noticed something about my short stories. My shorter works seem to get a better response from editors and Wordslingers. They tend to be full of specific details, emotion, all good stuff. But they feel shallow to me. Like a little burst of flavor from a pillow mint. My longer stories, where I can develop characters more, build worlds and create plot or story arcs, satisfy me more but they haven't gotten the kind of rejection letters (or acceptance letters) I'd like.
I'm trying to figure out why that is. I could be that I can focus more on details in shorter works. I'm terribly afraid that I'm a lazy, sloppy writer and maintaining focus like that over a longer work would burn me out. I don't know. I almost feel like that level of immersion in a character's thoughts, emotions and point of view in a longer work would be exhausting to a reader as well. Maybe I should try it.
I've been thinking more about story structure in short stories, as well. Thinking that if I have a length in mind and I write to that length, it might make it easier to create plot arcs...
To tell a story.
That's what I want to do, like to do. Are my shorter works really stories? They seem to be about an event. There are lots of short stories that are like that, at least if my books by Hemingway, O. Henry and Hammett are any indications (the H section of my library is pretty choice when it comes to short story writers). Are event stories really stories at all? What is a story? It should be a series of events, shouldn't it? One event linked to another as a result of the actions taken by characters, that's a story, isn't it? So what am I writing when I write shorter works (1-2k words)?
See, this is what kept me from writing short stories while I was trying to focus on novels. I'm concerned that I'm thinking too small. For novels, you need to think big. You need to set up things that pay off fifty pages away, while with short stories, the payoff always has to come sooner.
I like short stories, as a break, and they're a good way to experiment, to practice. If some get sold, all the better. But Novels are where my heart is. Stories.
I don't know, I'll see if I can write larger, intentionally, in my next short story. My first attempt at a structured short story, all the way back in April, seemed to work but it felt stilted and artificial to me. It felt like I was writing to plot points, reversals, inciting incident on page 2, reversal on page 10, yada yada. It didn't feel like telling a story, it felt like constructing one. Maybe that's the way professional writers do it, or some of them, at least. I tend to fall closer to the 'exploratory' side of the spectrum, at least as far as writing enjoyment goes. Like in the last novel chapter I wrote, I had one or two pieces on plot information to expose, the rest of it...I just winged it and things happened in it that surprised me. The characters felt alive, free. They don't feel free or alive when I'm writing to a structure, to a form.
So. There's my challenge. To write a longer story, a series of connected scenes but with characters that feel alive and like robots marching towards a structure.
I wish I'd never read those damn Larry Brooks books. I feel like I'm having to unlearn things to get back to what works for me.