Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Very short stories

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Short stories are tough.
There is this sort of… not really a debate, more like a feud, between those that Novels are proper literature, short stories are for losers and those that short stories are the true distillation of talent, any hack can write a 1000-pages trilogy given enough time and coffee.
Both are wrong, of course, and both are right, because the fact is, it’s not a binary system – there’s a whole lot of shades and issues there.

I write mostly short stories and novellas.
I feel comfortable with the word-count, and they make for reasonably fast writing, meaning I can sell them quick and keep the creditors at bay.
Sometimes I write longer stuff.
All formats have their pros and cons.
My favorite word-count is probably within the 8.000-to-12.000 words range. Shorter, I usually feel cramped, longer, I usually need a lot of time and planning and things get somewhat rambling.

What I find really scary is the under-2000 words range.
How can someone pack enough punch in less than 2000 words?, I ask myself.

But it can be done.
It’s a sort of kung-fu, you need to learn the moves and practice them so long and so often they become second nature.
image002And I don’t mean da roolez that amateurs are forever harping about, show-don’t-tell, write-what-you-know, cut-the-adverbs or whatever.
I’m talking about being able to have such a clear vision of what you want to say, you can translate that in the minimum of words necessary and still pack your punch.
Possibly, pack a much harder punch than you’d have packed in twice as many words.
There’s no ready-made, one-size-fits-all set of steps you can follow and, ta-da!, here’s your story.
It takes work.

You want an example?
I will give you an example.
It’s a short story by John Varley, it’s called The Manhattan Phone Book (Abridged) and you can find it here.

 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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