On Short Stories

I do not think like a short story writer. I’ve learned that this semester. I think like a novelist. I want to write short stories, because they don’t take as much time and they are less complex, but I am not a short story thinker. My stories are complex and have subplots within subplots within the plot. I may think I want this or that story to be short, or even novella length, but when I lay out the idea, it is always way too big for a small space, and sometimes, it is even too big for a large space.

This semester has been about thinking like a short story writer. It has been about changing my thinking to write stories that are character driven and not plot driven, but my stories are never really about characters. My stories are always about plot. I like to take a familiar idea, like time travel, and then turn it upside down and see what falls out.

But now, I’m writing short stories, and I find that I like the satisfaction of that. I like having a story finished and knowing that with only a few tweaks, it might actually be ready to submit for publication at some point. Still, in order to write short stories, I have to think like a short story writer, which means that I have to stop thinking about plot and let the characters decide the story. It is a kind of letting go; letting go of control, letting go of my ideas, letting go of me. It isn’t easy to reinvent my writing wheel, but I feel like it will be worth it.


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