Annie On Writing

September 23, 2009

Is your short story begging to be a Novel?

Old book bindings at the Merton College library.
Image via Wikipedia

The is one of my articles over at Write Anything where I discuss the ‘dangers’ or that little short story of yours taking on a life of its own…

As a writer of short stories and flash fiction, I have had the flashes of much larger and complex worlds and relationships than described in the scant story I had just created.

I am certain that I am not alone with the experience of having characters either argue or beg to allow their story to be told. Following, is compiled some tell tale signs that your flash fiction or short story is attempting to flex its literary muscles and overgrow your files and time and demand to become a novel.

1. Your short story just isn’t.

As Jodi this week points out there are two basic types of short story which are growing with popularity – the flash fiction – 200 to around 1000 words and the more traditional short story of up to 10 000 words. Most magazines or journals will not run stories longer than this; should you be looking to be published in the ‘mainstream’. Another factor to consider – especially with the internet – most people only have the patience or time to read up to 2000 words on a screen. If your story has been edited and cut to the bare minimum and still over runs this word count, you have a novel in disguise.

2. Time frames are too long.

Most short stories happen in a very short time frame – often a moment in time, a morning, over a few days or weeks at the very most. Although there are no specific rules with this, its generally accepted that most short stories don’t cover years of a characters experiences. If the reader is required to understand huge swathes of back story about each character and the years it has taken them to connect with others and come to the specific point your story is set, you have a novel in the making

3. People want to know more.

The most convincing way to discover your short story is desperate to be a novel is by having your raving fans – or in that case – someone – ask you when the ‘rest’ of the story will be revealed or published as a book. Before rushing out and expanding your short story, it might be prudent to do a little research or gain feedback from others on the acceptance of this storyline as a novel. Just because your Mum liked it, might not mean that you will have hundreds of strangers willing to purchase your book.

4. Originality

If your story is truly unusual, or has an original or a completely fresh take on an event, then perhaps it need expanding and allowed to become a novel.

5. Character Overload

If too many characters are needed to explain events or have complex relationships which cannot be whittled down to 3 or 4 at most – then this is a sigh your plot is that of a novel – rather than a short story.

6. The theme has not been fully developed.

Most short stories focus on fully exploring one theme, where its message clearly communicates to the readers throughout the story. If your story begins to branch off into a variety of unrelated themes, you either need to separate them and write separate short stories or look at producing the plot in a larger format.

7. You can’t stop working on it.

If you are excited and passionate about the characters and the plot, then it is likely that your readers will too. You don’t need to like your characters, nor always agree with their choices – but if they are interesting and sustain your attention – then keep writing your novel. If you can live, eat and breathe your characters for months at a time, without getting bored or tired of them, then it may be likely that your audience will enjoy the journey as well.

If you are fortunate enough to be inspired to continue telling the stories of your characters, then go with that, rather than torture yourself creating prose built around a structured theme and setting….just write…..and enjoy!


1 Comment »

  1. Hi there. Thought you might be interested in this: . Cheers, JK


    Comment by JK Fowler — November 15, 2009 @ 6:40 am | Reply

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