Sunday, October 11, 2009

More on Story Length

Last week, I talked about story length. I've continued thinking about that during the week, especially since I've been kind of 'bom-barded' with new information on the subject of short-shorts.

I regularly receive a couple writing newsletters, but I don't necessarily get to read them as soon as they land in my mailbox. As I was trying to catch up this past week, I found several items that pertained to short short stories. There were two that pertained to something a little different than the normal 'flash'.

One announced a contest where a person was supposed to write an 'opening' sentence that hinted at and told an entire story in and by itself. I struggled with that concept, but the examples the author gave were wonderful, and I finally got the idea. It was an intriguing exercise that I might actually try … someday. As I've said, the shorter the format, the less comfortable I am with it. So the idea of writing only one sentence that hints at an entire story, while opening another story is more than a little daunting to me. I'd have to get used to the idea before I could dare to try it.

The other concerned a single sentence, too, but it was more along the lines of a sentence that stood on its own, telling the reader something unexpected about the writer. A memoir sentence, I guess you could say. The winner was thanking the newsletter for announcing the contest, since without that announcement, she would not have submitted her 1k-sentence.

Now, it's personal preference, of course, but I feel a 1000-word sentence is just too long. I have difficulty finding the nerve to try to write really short stories, but I am appalled by the thought of a sentence that contains 1000 words. In regular manuscript format, that one sentence would be four pages long! Faulkner always did drive me crazy. Halfway (or less) through one of his sentences, I have forgotten what he said at the beginning of the sentence, and therefore I am hopelessly lost. So, when it comes to sentences, I usually feel that brevity is better.

To recap, my comfortable style seems to be long stories with short-to-medium-length sentences. It's always a good thing to know your own style. Even then, sometimes a person can surprise him- or herself. For instance…

A couple months ago, I woke up with a micro-story completely written in my head. This was a surprise, because I had not been trying to write micro, or even flash. I jumped up and got it typed into the computer. It's exactly 100 words. I didn't know I had it in me.

So, on the theory that a person's skill grows when they try things outside their 'comfort zone', I will try to write shorter fiction from time to time. Maybe I'll even share some of it with you. It might be the way to go with this 'death by banana' mystery my son's got me trying to write. (That should teach me to ask a teen for ideas!)

See ya next week. Trudy

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