You may, or may not, know that it’s been my intention to write a couple of short stories for the Website Of DOOM. OK, so far so good, have ideas will type. Only it’s not really working out that way. It’s been ages since I last wrote a short story – I’m more used to turning in whole books of 130 to 150 thousand words. I’m used to letting things happen and get more complex and lead off on interesting (interesting to me at any rate) tangents. Can I turn out a four page short story? Can I buggery. Nope, I’ll be lucky if I can get the damn thing finished in fifteen. Even now I’m thinking of extra subplots and events that would bloat the thing up like Anna Nicole-Smith. Maybe I’m just out of practice, or maybe a good short story is so far removed from a good novel that it’s too hard for my little brain to make the switch easily.
After all, look at Philip K Dick – excellent short stories, crap novels (OK, so they weren’t all crap, but for me they never lived up to the promise of his shorties). Not everything that works as a short story will work as a novel. The suspension of disbelief is different for the two mediums: what you can get away with in 10 to 20 isn’t the same as what you have to do to sustain 400 of the little papery bastards. It’s like radio and television, they’re similar mediums, but ultimately not the same thing.
And there are those who’re determined that any idea that works as a shortie, will work as a fully fledged novel. But it won’t. Take a squint at ‘The Days Of Perky Pat’ – amusing short story, crap novel. The more I look at it, the more I think they just don’t map to one another. Sure some of the characters may make excellent heroes / villains for a book, but if an idea works in 12 pages, what makes someone think it’s going to be comfortable spread out over 400? If it needed 400 pages, it wouldn’t have worked in 12 in the first bloody place, would it?
Or maybe it’s just me…