I left a comment on Laura Stanfill ‘s blog (where I saw the link to the interview), but I cut my comment down quite a bit when I realized that a lot of it was about me (and I try to avoid doing too much of that, when possible).
So, I thought I would leave the entire comment here, since I think this question (the commercially established forms of fiction – short story, novella, novel, etc. – vs. the fact that different stories naturally flow into a much wider variety of shapes and sizes) is very interesting.
It’s not a new dilemma, by the way. Henry James used to bemoan the fact that the novella, his favorite form, was difficult to place commercially (as it still is).
Here is my full comment:
Very interesting on the relationship between short stories and novels (which are, of course, totally artificial categories). It always surprises me that more people aren’t working in the area in between, but I guess it looks like there isn’t a market.
However, I think the “People don’t like short stories” idea comes from a narrow view, where people just look at prose fiction to determine what kinds of stories people like. On television, for example, the trend these days seems to be toward hour-long dramas with a lot of larger “arcs,” spanning part or all of a season. What is that but interconnected short stories?
If the equivalent idea isn’t selling in prose fiction, I think it’s because the big publishers haven’t figured out how to make it happen, or (more likely) they haven’t even figured out that this is a potentially marketable form.
I think it’s a fascinating way to work, though (typically) It’s something I started to do pretty much by accident. Even before my mystery story collection (which forms, as we’ve discussed, a “stealth novel”), my second novel, U-town, was very long and made up of a bunch of separate parts which varied quite a bit in tone, point of view, length, and voice. They weren’t really short stories, but I tried to give each its own arc (when you’re writing really long form fiction, you need to give the reader regular rewards along the way).
U-town tends to frustrate people who think of a novel first in terms of a protagonist’s journey, because it doesn’t have a single protagonist. You could see it as a three-part story with three different protagonists, but even that involves a bit of a stretch. (That is why the three columns are uneven on the web page – to give a slight idea of the three parts without making it formal by saying “Part One” and so on.)
Right now I’m writing a detective story where the “detective” keeps changing. In other words, already two different people have stepped up to solve the thing and then bailed out, and we’re now on Detective #3.
Who I think it going to do it.
1 comment December 3rd, 2013