29 December 2009

New Years Resolution: Write More Stories

Many extremely successful speculative fiction authors have honed their craft on short stories. For example, as I alluded to in a blog entry at the beginning of December 2009, author Paolo Bacigalupi was inspired to write short SF stories by William Gibson:
I'd stalked William Gibson at one point at a book signing and had asked him what his secret to success was. ...I hit him with all of these questions and one of the things that he said was that he'd written short stories until somebody would take him seriously and that was when he managed to actually sell a novel. So I sort of took that to heart and went home and sat down and was like: 'OK, so I need to write a short story. How the fuck do I do this?'
So I bought some science fiction magazines--fantasy and science fiction magazines and stuff-- and read all of the short stories in them and went, 'OK, I just need to write something better than any these things.' I sat down and started banging away and eventually what I got was "Pocketful of Dharma."

I recently read Paycheck And Other Classic Stories by Philip K. Dick and he has a bunch of notes about his stories at the end. Interestingly, among other things, Dick says novels are about characters (they drive the actions of the novel), while short stories are about plot:
In a story, you learn about the characters from what they do; in a novel it is the other way around: you have your characters and then they do something idiosyncratic, emanating from their unique natures. What an SF story really requires is the initial premise which cuts it off entirely from our present world.
Thus, Dick maintains novels and short stories are very different but both are very valuable. I concur.

I've been analyzing some of my favorite p-zines lately and noticed one publishes approx 90% space stories and another publishes stories with approx 80% narrative. I think here at Electric Spec we are open to all types of prose and all types of speculative content. So, for your New Years Resolution consider writing more short stories and sending them to us. We would appreciate it. :)

Happy New Year!

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read this post. Thanks for it. I like such topics and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I agree that plot often hangs in the forefront in short stories. It's helped me hone my plot skills, and in novels it's often easy to lose track of plot, whether you're the writer or the reader.

That said, character is important, too. Truly great short stories tie character irretrievably to plot. In other words, your plot should only be able to happen to THAT particular character. I'd say that's one of near-misses I see pretty regularly, ordinary characters surrounded by a cool plot.

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