“What do you like most about short fiction,” Jeff VanderMeer asked, “as an art form?”
Six or seven years after my first sale, I’m still not very good at short fiction. With a few exceptions (‘Fetch’, ‘Long Past Midnight’), I tend toward novel-wide settings and novel-deep characters, and it’s hard to fit a novel’s worth of words into a short-story bag–they tend to bulge out into novelettes and novellas. I sit down on the first of February with a hot idea for a short story that I think I can dash off that weekend, and ten weeks later it’s at nine thousand words and climbing.
But even so, ten or fifteen or twenty thousand words is easier than a hundred thousand. A novelette I can hold in my head; a novel, for me, is still like an IKEA furniture kit that I’m trying to put together on my own even though it says in the instructions it’s meant for two to three people — pound in a peg at this end, and a peg seven feet away at the other end jumps out.
Real short story writers do something right and tight and technically sweet that I just don’t know how to do yet. I’d like to. I need to read more.
Indeed- the ability to create a complete short work is a fine art. Compactness, twist and turn of storyline, character depth enough to draw you near and a thunderclap closure is the stuff of real craftsmen and women. Perhaps the ability to envision a solid beginning and end, then connecting some mental dots without drawing a straight line is the stuff? LOL- I do not know, for like yourself I am unable to fathom the tightness of it. Cheers!