Short Stories, and Why I Don’t Write Them

Posted: March 27, 2010 in Uncategorized
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When I first started writing seriously, I was in my late teens and focused primarily on plays. It was only after reading T.M. Wright’s novel, “A Manhattan Ghost Story” that I thought I could try fiction. He made telling a compelling story with complex characters so easy, I thought I’d have no problem with that.

Well, Terry had the luxury of being a writer for a lot longer than myself, and had honed his craft to perfection. I on the other hand, was a wet behind the ears wannabe.  I think the first story I ever wrote was called “My Brother’s Eyes”. I don’t remember much about it, other than that it was set in a bar, and had something to do with mistaken identity.  Following that, came a story about a homeless man who had been offered a life changing deal too late (I really forget the name of that), Black and Green-which I can’t even remember what it was about (though I do remember the title and that I’d co-written it with my roommate at the time Joseph Kessler Adams).  Heart of Stone was one of the last stories I wrote from that time period (there were others to be sure, but I don’t remember much, this was 20 plus years ago). It’s the one story I truly loved, and the one Joe said was perfect. I’ve long since lost it, and I’ve tried to recreate it, but some things just need to stay dead, I think.  I had far more success with the plays I wrote, as Joe, Lorne Brown and I had our own theater company and we’d write, direct and produce our own stuff-it was the ultimate do it yourself company.  The theater company was when I lived in Berkeley CA, and we used an empty space at the Lutheran Seminary at the very top of the Berkeley Hills as our theater.

Good times, then.

As things go, I ended up moving back to Phoenix, and I’d try to write, but things just seemed to clog up. I was asked by two different people to help their work, and since they were more dilettantes than writers, my suggestions were met with skepticism, derision, and ultimately loss of friendship.

The very last story I wrote, A Little Death, is one I’m somewhat recreating and updating now. And I owe that to my recent friendship with Noah O’Toole and his boyfriend Jessy Karson. Though neither of them are actually characters, it was their relationship and indeed their personalities that got me thinking about A Little Death again.

Okay, so far all I’ve talked about are stories and I titled this post about why I don’t write them. What gives, you might ask?  The thing is, stories are hard for me. Not coming up with them, I have plenty of ideas, but keeping them at a certain length is hard. I tend to get a bit more complicated with plot the further I get into a story. Even if I have an outline (though I hate using them) characters have a way of getting away from me, situations take on a life of their own, and before I know it, that 4ooo word story is now 12,000 words. Sure, they can always be edited and cut down, and frankly, not be missing much; but it’s like pruning a tree, cut a little too much and it looks awkward-cut way too much and the damn thing dies.

My story, Killer Weed (which can be found elsewhere on this blog), is a different story. One criticism I’d gotten was it needed to be fleshed out a bit more, and yet when I tried that, it did balloon into a 7500 word story but lost the intensity that I had in its original format.  After a dozen or so rejections, I realized it was just one of those stories would never find a home, so I cut it back down and like it as it now reads.

I mention all this to say, that while I love reading short stories, I have a hard time with them. It’s not my favorite format for writing-novella to novel length is my forte I suppose. And for those who want to read my writing, but don’t have much to choose from, my apologies. I want to do the best work I can in the format that’s natural to me, so I hope that a lack of samples won’t stop you from reading my published work in the future.

  1. Zoe says:

    I don’t really care for writing short stories either. Even the short stuff I’m writing for The New Bedlam Project is part of a series, so I’m not really writing short. I’m just shipping in chapters as I complete them.

    When I do write short, the stories typically get rejected as either being predictable, or for using “familiar themes.” So mostly I say screw it and stick with novellas and novels. I’d worry about it, but I remember reading on Neil Gaiman’s blog that he doesn’t like writing short stories. And if he feels the same way, it can’t be wrong to snub the shorties, right? X^D Well that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. X^p

  2. raingods says:

    Hey, you’ll get no argument from me on that! I’d love to write short stories as easily as I can do a novella, but I can’t.

    Someone sent me an email saying he had problems writing longer pieces, and I think it’s nice that we all have different lengths (get your mind outta the gutter) we’re comfortable with. If everyone wrote shorts and no one wrote novella/novel length pieces, how boring would that be?

  3. raingods says:

    well at least it will keep mine company!