Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Today I’d like to welcome Edward H. Carpenter, who is giving us a few reasons why we should write short stories.
Why write short stories? – A guest post by Edward H. Carpenter
There are potentially a lot of answers, but the first one that comes to my mind is “because there’s a story to be told!”
I can’t speak to how other authors come up with the inspiration for their short stories. Mine have generally appeared as the result of some stimulus from my immediate environment, or while reading, or often some combination of both.
For example, my first short story, Seven Lives to Repay Our Country, sprang to life as a direct result of reading a passage in a history of World War II in which a Japanese General gave a final order for a suicide attack to his men, just hours before he committed ritual suicide rather than face capture. Being that I was living in Japan at the time and was an officer in the Marine Corps, the same organization that had fought those Japanese soldiers 61 years earlier, it just felt right to create a pair of fictional characters to explore those final hours on Saipan. The story wrote itself, as I recall, in the course of a long evening.
Another story came to me while watching mortar shells falling in the Arabian desert, and another from having read Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere while riding on the very London Tube system that features so prominently in that novel. Somewhere between Heathrow and Cockfosters, it occurred to me that in another world almost like ours, another man almost like myself might step off that same train and into history.
So that’s one good reason to write short stories; there’s a story to be told, and it’s simply not long enough to take any other form. Another reason that fledgling authors might consider this format is because it offers an excellent means of learning the ins and outs of both writing and publishing.
Because if you can successfully write, edit and complete a single short story, then you are likely to be able to replicate that success with a novel. Moreover, you will have built up your confidence and experience, and gotten a lot of mistakes out of the way.
One great thing about short stories is such that they can be written in between your Great American Novel, (or Great Zimbabwean Novel, or what have you.) Once I’ve got the idea of a story in my mind, and have sketched some notes on paper, I don’t have to write it all at once, although that sometimes does happen. But more often, life gets in the way, and I have to return to it a time or two. Or twenty-seven.
Short stories give the reader a perfect literary morsel to satisfy their craving for good writing in the space of a long commute by train, an airplane ride, or while waiting in line at the DMV. And it gives new authors a chance to learn the ropes, and more experienced writers an opportunity to explore outside their usual genres, give a favorite minor character in one of their larger works a voice of their own, or help to break through a case of writer’s block.
I wish you all the best in your writing, and great adventures in reading.
Edward H. Carpenter travels the world as a Marine Foreign Area Officer, enjoying both the jarring impacts of his weekly rugby matches and time spent quietly reading a good book. He has published three short stories to date; Seven Lives to Repay Our Country, Happily Ever After, and Lethargica. You can catch up with him at his blog, Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.
Are you a novelist considering writing short stories? If you’ve written on both formats, how do you think they are similar? Different? Or how they help you in writing in the other format?