Before we get into what a dunce I can be, which is always a favorite topic for my readers, let me apologize in advance for a second blog entry so close to the last one. I know, I know, too much of
a good an irritating thing, but since yesterday’s entry is guaranteed to PO a bunch of people, I figured I can use today’s rambling to make everyone question my intelligence and soften the blow of the previous entry. Now, for all those who read yesterday’s blog and thought ‘what a dumbass’, I provide proof.
Okay, so what did it take me 30 years to realize? The simplest of writing rules. Maybe it was too simple, since I over-analyze anything and everything you can imagine.
I majored in Creative Writing. I think that’s what got me my first agent, back in the 80’s you didn’t see many CW majors and she (and the editor who recommended me to her) assumed I was some sort of hotshot. (To be fair, so did I) But I digress.
One of my favorite professors…okay, actually the only writing professor (Hi Tom!) I could stand to be around for more than five minutes (again, this was the 70’s and 80’s, they’re all long gone now) once explained the difference in a short story and a novel. It is brilliant stuff, but I only understood it’s full meaning this very morning, more than 30 years later.
“Bill,” Tom said. “The difference between a novel and a short story is that short stories have a lot fewer words.”
My reaction at the time: ‘well, duh.’
My reaction now: “damn.”
It’s not like I didn’t know the rules. I’ve written more than 100 short stories in my day, but none, NOT ONE, for more than 30 years. And then one pops up out of nowhere, unbidden, and what’s more, it’s part of the canon of The Last Brigade saga. Hell, it’s the beginning of whole thing. I didn’t even know there was a beginning.
Nor did I understand what Tom meant until I was rounding third and heading for home this morning. A short story has a beginning, middle and end, just like a novel. It has a protagonist and an antagonist. It has conflict and resolution. And it needs to move!
My writing style has changed radically in the past thirty years, but until I worked on this project (thanks to Rambling Rambunctious Press Inc., RRPI, for launching their short story contest based on Legends) to enter a contest, I had not finished a short in decades.
Then I find out that Tom was right. Again. It’s thrilling and galling at the same time. Why didn’t he tell me this 30 years ago?
Oh, yeah, that’s right…he did.