Sunday, January 18, 2015

Strange Ideas

There's something exquisite about short stories that you can't say for the novel. I suppose a novel could be exquisite, but it would be quite rare. I can think of a few novels that reach that pinnacle, but there certainly aren't many in all of literature.

However, many short stories do reflect that kind of perfection you don't often see in art. I believe it's because one small ant-like idea can become of such importance that it's a whale. The story is a complete package unto itself. If done correctly the reader should sit back after reading a successful short story and say, Wow, that was something. Then the story should linger, like a fine wine on the tongue. 

If it sounds like I love short stories, you'd be right. I began writing them first, before novels, and I practice the form all year, every year. Ellen Datlow doesn't pick them to honor and they've won no awards, but I know what I've done and I pronounce it...a pod of whales. Sometimes work gets overlooked. Perhaps that's my status with the short story, and that doesn't slow me in the least. My whales swim and a lot of readers like them. That's what matters in the end, my friends.

I wrote a short story this past week that I like very much. I just published it as a little e-book on Amazon with a great cover by my cover artist, Jeffrey Kosh. I could have submitted it to an anthology or magazine, but I just couldn't do it. I wanted this one as my own, share it personally, and get it to readers as quickly as possible. It's called THE PEOPLE OF THE TOWER. I'll try to explain how it came about.

I was sitting on my sofa, the TV on, my laptop on the coffee table in front of me. Into my head came this, truly out of the blue yonder: Tower. Big castle-like gray granite building. Someone is put there and not let out. The people who put him or her there never speaks. It's a little town.

I sat in surprise, the idea twirling around in my head. A castle tower. Really? That sounds Gothic, I thought. But why are people put there and what happens to them and who does it and why? All the story questions came to me and I knew I couldn't answer those questions unless I wrote the story. I wrote it like a suspense tale, despite I knew from the first it would be a supernatural horror story. I get an idea and I just follow to see where it leads. I know, I know, writing advice books tell you not to do that. You could end up in a big empty pasture of words and no where to go. That's not been my experience, so I trust the Muse to lead me forward, knowing whatever tale waits I want to read it so I have to write it. Writing advice is fine for most people. It doesn't work for me.

Then the denouement came finally and not more than two pages before I got there I knew what it was. I saw it coming, though readers shouldn't, and so far it appears they don't see it coming, which pleases me. I hate letting an ending get to the reader before its time. It's like comedy. It's all in the timing. You have a knack for it or you don't, there's no maybe about it. 

You may ask:

How do you know the idea that comes to you is worth pursuing? I don't know. I trust. Creativity is an instinct. I accept the idea because it came out of the ether and it tapped my shoulder and I am at its service the amount of time it takes to write the story. Nothing makes me happier than to read a new story, one that I wrote, one that gave me such pleasure writing. 

Have you ever taken an idea that came to you and it failed, you didn't complete the story? Yes, that happens, but seldom. If it doesn't work out, it wasn't strong enough, it didn't have "legs." That rarely happens for me, though, thank goodness or I'd have a hard drive filled with partially completed short stories and I don't.

Do you suggest other writers do what you do? Hell no! I wouldn't try to tell anyone else how to write. If this is the way it works for the writer, as it does for me, then fine. If it doesn't, if the writer has to outline a story, take notes, study details of character or setting before starting, that's simply the way it works for the writer and who am I to say it isn't the correct way. Because it is the correct way for THAT writer, not this one.

If you want to see how my out-of-the-blue-yonder idea came out, you can pick up PEOPLE OF THE TOWER. If you want to know why anyone is in a castle tower in a small Southern town the way I did, here's your chance. It's $.99 and I won't make much money from it, but sometimes that's not the point. That's not the point at all.

People of the Tower
To buy click here: PEOPLE OF THE TOWER

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