Wednesday, February 18, 2009

“I think there are short story ideas, and there are novel ideas.” -- Carrie Vaughn in The Long and Short of It
Today’s quote reminded me of my first online writing course. Due to the size of the class, the instructor insisted on a maximum of 500 words for all writing assignments. Most of the students struggled with this limit. It wasn’t because their story ideas were bad, they were too big. Their tales couldn’t be told in less than 500 words.

I had a pretty good idea of what I could and couldn’t do because of my study of flash fiction. Based on what I’d read, flash fiction worked best when it dealt with problems that could be resolved by a small number of characters in a short time span. I kept that in mind for the assignments and for my own stories. Then I read Zoom! Writing a Lifetime in a Page or Two by Bruce Holland Rogers. In it, he provided ideas for writing short short stories that cover long periods of time. It made me rethink what I thought I knew about writing short fiction.

1 comment:

Susan Pogorzelski said...

Jim,

What a great quote! And your own words are spot-on. Ususally, I start out with a single sentence or prompt and see where it will take me. Usually I have an idea of where the story will end and how long it will take to get there.

But then there are others that just seem to have a mind of its own and you just have to follow it -- the length of a novel.

I don't believe in limiting yourself. I think the story itself knows where it's going and in what length it needs to be told. Whether it be flash fiction, longer short story, or a novel, it's up to the writer to listen and make sure it gets told the best way it can.

Thanks for the quote!