Short Stories: The Barbarians Have Returned!

You read the title correctly: it’s an actual writing post. I’m aware these posts have leaped between subjects. In part, that’s me learning the ropes of blogging. Another part is that I want to avoid writing yet another writer’s blog that righteously preaches the horrors of adverbs, the frustration of filters and the wonders of active voice. There are plenty of grammatically qualified people who can do that far better than I. I suspect this will evolve into something more focused (or mutate into some writhing tentacle-beast) but until then, it’s more leaping.

I posted a few weeks ago that I’m writing a series of short stories—a rarity since I usually focus on novels. That in mind, a crazy idea struck: why not read some? Being grounded in epic fantasy with some out-of-genre sorties, it’s a little disorientating to read something that can’t double as a door stop, never mind write at that length. I prefer the novel, the larger stage to present mysteries, misdirection and orchestrate long enough to justify blowing things up on an epic scale. Anyway, I overcame my confusion and picked up Swords against the Millennium from the Alchemy Press.

And it’s pretty good.

The stories are definitely of the sword and sorcery ilk with some forays into horror, for example, a story in the HP Lovecraft omniverse. One of my recent gauges of a story is that if it can turn off my internal editor without me noticing, it’s done a good job at immersion. Most of the stories did this although one I couldn’t follow at all—that one is probably just not my cup of tea. On the whole, there’s plenty of hack, slash and shoggoths tearing stuff. It’s definitely worth a read.

So what’s to learn from this little exercise? Knowing that short stories follow novel structure—but on a smaller scale—is one thing but seeing and understanding it is another matter. A common trait is that the ending is either known or the conflict staged in such a way to drive with the question: “How can we possibly reach that resolution?” Much as this stuff sounds intuitive, basics like these are so easily forgotten in the writing chair.

Before leaving to put some structure around the first Mysticarium story, I’ll give one last insight: reading helps writing. Who knew?


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