I remember not long after my life-long addiction to science fiction and fantasy began I bought an Isaac Asimov book without realising it was a collection of short stories. At first I felt a little cheated. I was, after all, looking forward to losing myself in a full length novel by my favourite author. But hey, I was young, didn’t have a lot of money and I’d bought it hadn’t I?’ So with a little reluctance I sat down and opened it. How wrong could I be? This was an incredible, diverse blast of imagination. It was like he’d had all these ideas for stories that wouldn’t make books backed up in his mind and had let rip. There was science fiction, fantasy and the just plain weird. Much as I enjoyed his full length scifi this demonstrated to me what a great story teller he really was. If anything it hooked me even more into his work and I sought out more of his short stories as well as the novels.
So as readers don’t ignore the short story collections, as I’ve discovered since, there are some absolute gems. As writers, take time out from those books and play with short stories, you won’t regret it. If nothing else it provides a creative change that we sometimes need. Also as a writer read other writer’s shorts, it’s a great way to spur the imagination (one reason I include a collection of scifi short stories in my for writers section).
And that’s the point of this blog. As a writer I have ideas for a more diverse range of stories than I’ll ever get to write. Short stories give me that freedom to experiment, to try different styles. And you never know where this will lead. Also, many of those story ideas just don’t have the legs to be a full length novel. However, when they do that is a real bonus. It can be a great way to test ideas for novels. A way to work with characters and get to know them. How do they think? How do they talk? Does the setting work?
I have a new book almost ready to go (planned release date September), ‘Inspector Kirby and Harold Longcoat’. This is a detective mystery story with a magical/paranormal edge to it set in Northumberland where I grew up. This is quite a deviation from my normal science fiction and started life as a short story written for my writing group. Without the freedom short story writing gives you these books and characters would never have existed. At the time I was interested in experimenting with more humour in my writing, which would have been perhaps too big a risk in a novel. The group really enjoyed it and the characters. They encouraged me to write more, which I did. I ended up with three connected short stories which then formed the basis of the book. Reading these stories to my writing group had convinced me it worked. Oh, and there’s a follow-up in first draft.
Sometimes I feel that as writers we devalue the short story, that somehow they are not “serious” writing. However, if you think about, in many ways they are a more exacting discipline than a novel. Every word has to count, there is less room for rambling. The idea has to be tight. In a few thousand words you have to get from beginning to satisfying conclusion. So now I have a collection of short stories I feel it would be a shame to keep them locked up on my hard drive. I think they deserve an audience. Which why is why I’ve put thirteen of them together, in “Dancing with the Devil” and am offering them for free. Click on this link and see what you think.
As always comments are welcome