05 Aug 2007
Issue 81 of the Secrets Newsletter came out the other day, and it was about character change and growth, and the difference between the two, and it was a case of right-advice-at-right-timeism for me, because it helped me understand what is wrong with Caldera so far (or at least one of the major issues, I have no doubt that I will find more as I learn and grow as a writer). The problem is that although my prose is perfectly readable, Caden’s (the main character) story just isn’t emotionally engaging after the first chapter. It won’t take too much work to fix this, I don’t think, because its in there, it just needs to be brought into the foreground a little more.
My next thought was to apply this to the short story that I’m currently writing, and it helped a lot there, as well. All of which brought to mind a post I read on Whatever recently, about the decline in pay for short stories, where Scalzi basically wonders what effect the stagnation of the short story markets has on short fiction itself.
Now, I know that I’ve heard this before, but short stories, in addition to being an important art form in and of themselves, are important as a method of developing writing skill. The first reason is that short stories are harder to write. With a novel, you have 80,000+ words to get what you want to say down, in a short story, you have less than 15,000, and although they are often used for different types of stories, no matter how you look at it, that’s a lot less space, and so requires more skill to do well. The second reason is that, due to that compression, things are more obvious. In a novel, you have all those words over which your characters should subtly grow, but in a short story, you only have a fraction, so it is usually easier to pick out the elements, and is therefore more useful as a tool.
Now we need a revival of those markets (although I suspect that many of the traditional short story markets will have to make some tough choices or die). That is a post on its own, though, and I’ll have to put it off for some other time, as I should be writing/climbing/making waffles.