Monthly Archives: June 2013

Short stories and Nursery rhymes…

World-building.

As a writer, no matter what sort of world you’re building, the chances are pretty high that your world has children in it. They may not become part of your story, but they almost certainly exist nonetheless. And so, part of the culture of your world will be devoted to those children, and that culture had better be part of your story, even if the children themselves never appear on the page.

That’s why I am about to write a nursery rhyme.

No, I’ve never done this before and I’m pretty sure I haven’t a clue what I’m getting myself into; but I’m about to dive in, nonetheless. I’m actually going to read nursery rhymes to get an idea of the feel of them: common uses of meter, typical metaphors used, that sort of thing. Then, I’m going to take the seed of an idea that sprang out of one of the character treatments I posted recently and attempt to write a nursery rhyme that could conceivably have been inspired by the event.

It’s very unlikely that any of this will end up as part of my story, of course. After all, I’m trying to write dark tales in a fantastic and gothic setting. Children might appear in the story, but I’ll be taking to care to keep them as part of the tragic background and a dim sense of hope for a brighter future. The nursery rhyme will serve to simply add to my understanding of the world I’m writing.

I posted this in the hope that it might serve to be helpful to others of you who might be struggling with some aspect of world-building. The answer, as it is in most cases, is to write.

It’s daring! It’s exciting!! It’s… a MAKEOVER!!!

LOOK!!! Isn’t it something?

You know, I’ve had people ask me for a while now to switch to dark type on a light background citing the scheme as easier to read than light type on a dark background. While I never disputed the assertion that my chosen color scheme was more difficult to read, I did stubbornly persist in using it simply because I liked it better. I still do.

What prompted the change was a dear friend from high school made a comment on my Facebook page making the suggestion once more.

I suddenly realized that, while yes, this is in fact MY website – and yes, I certainly can make my website however I jolly-well please – if a significant number of people are making the same suggestion, it’s probably either stupid, arrogant, or both, to simply ignore that. At the end of the day, I want you all to want to come to my website and I want you to read what I post here. If a simple change like color scheme will make visiting my site more pleasant, then I’m being an utter fool to hang onto a contrary convention simply because I like it.

So, that’s what led to the change and I do hope that you all see it as an improvement. I have the most loyal supporters a writer could ask for and I can’t thank you enough for your limitless patience.

Up next… (Or, “What the heck is he up to NOW?”)

Hey all!

Even though I did fall off my steady writing schedule in recent weeks, they managed to bear some unexpected fruit:

To explain, I need to back up a little and tell y’all what my views have been regarding the short story as a writing format. One of the first observations I made when I started to learn about the craft of writing was that the short story form is without doubt the most demanding of all. The demands on the writer regarding such things as word economy, pacing, characterization, are lofty in the extreme. With the short story format, the margin for error is literally ZERO.

That’s why, whenever I would read recommendations from published authors that aspiring novelists should begin by writing short stories, it sounded wrong to me. Why on earth would I begin with the most difficult format for the written story? Isn’t that backwards? Shouldn’t I start with a format that’s a little more forgiving and then work my way up to the hardest form?

As I was working on my most recent character treatment, it suddenly (and seemingly out of nowhere) occurred to me that I did indeed have it wrong and that I should have taken the advice from those published authors at face value. The truth of it is that, if you’re an aspiring novelist, you don’t write short stories for the purpose of writing great short stories – and you certainly don’t write them because they’re easier to write. If you’re an aspiring novelist, you write short stories for the same reason that runners run with weighted shoes and baseball players practice their swing with heavier bats than they’ll be using in the batter’s box. If you want to improve your craft – ANY craft – practice at the most demanding level possible. So, if you want to write the best possible novels you can write, practice by writing short stories explicitly because they ARE harder to write.

If you can learn how to pace a short story; if you can learn how to develop characterization and plot with the level of word economy required of the short story format – and learn to do it CONSISTENTLY – then you will find that your writing skills will have improved to the point that, once you start working on that rough draft of your novel, the plotting and pacing will be tight, the characterizations clear and succinct, and the overall word economy will be good, allowing you to focus more on the structure of your novel and how you’re telling your story – which is right where your focus should be.

I told you all of that to tell you this…

In addition to the character treatments I’ve been writing for the Chalandris setting, I am going to start working on writing some short stories for the setting, as well. I already have one in mind, in fact, and I can’t wait to get started on it. Because the short story is a publishable form, I won’t be posting them online, but I will make them available privately for those who are interested in reading them (assuming that doing so won’t adversely affect their ability to be published in the future – perhaps one of you folks in the know can tell me if I’m correct in that assumption).

New “Letter from Chalandris”: Sir Steffan, Steward to the Duncans of Chester

Hey all, finally finished Sir Steffan’s letter.

Enjoy!