By Sherry in Northern Virginia where winter seems to be setting in.
Short stories have been the bane of my existence — hmm that’s a little dramatic, so the bane of my writing existence. It seems like everyone I know writes them. I like to read them, but when it comes to me writing one, well, I fall short. When I lived in Massachusetts I always planned to write a short story to submit to the Level Best Books anthology. When I moved back to Northern Virginia I planned to write one to submit to the anthology for the Al Blanchard contest. I even had an idea for a story and wrote bits of it here and there but could never get it to gel.
On the other hand, I have a short story contest to thank for starting me on my adult novel writing journey. I may have told you this story before so feel free to skip to the next paragraph. We were living in Dayton, Ohio when I saw a blurb in the newspaper for a short story contest. I’ll write one, I thought. My protagonist was a gemologist, the setting was Seattle, and there was a dead homeless woman. I sat down to write but just kept going, subplots, romances, and characters appeared. The short story contest was abandoned but my novel writing journey was born.
So along comes our very own Wicked accomplice Sadie/Susannah/Jane suggesting we do a short story anthology taking a well known author’s stories and giving them a cozy twist. “Sure,” I say, “I can do that.” (I’m starting to worry that I’m one of those people who if someone came along and said we should all go skydiving I’d say yes. Writing a short story seems almost as risky to me.) The group decided to write riffs on Edgar Allan Poe stories and I was soon wondering what I’d gotten myself in to.
I spent some time going through Poe stories. I’d forgotten how dark they were. I finally settled on a story called “The Lighthouse.” But I didn’t start writing.
The deadline came closer and I made many attempts but tossed them. I finally called story story writer and independent editor Barb Goffman and explained my problem: every time I started writing characters and subplots kept crowding my head. Barb said, “A short story is about just one thing.”
“But what about –”
“Just one thing.”
“But a romance –”
“Just one thing.”
“I thought of a character –”
“JUST ONE THING.”
Okay, I got it. A short story is about just one thing. That’s what I chanted to myself as I wrote. I batted away those pesky subplots and characters that weren’t meant to be there. I finished the story. The anthology, Edgar Allan Cozy, comes out tomorrow.
Readers: Have you ever tried to write a short story? Do you read them?