For the first time in about, oh, forever, I’m writing a short story.
I got the idea from a writing newsletter I subscribe to. The first line popped into my head from nowhere, so I decided to go with it. I’m really rusty, though. We’re talking car-rotting-on-blocks-in-the-front-lawn rusty. I’ve written bits and pieces of short stories over the years, but the last time I really sat down and cranked out honest-to-God short stories was about ten years ago when I was taking a writing seminar at the University of Memphis. I think I wrote four complete stories over the course of that workshop.
Since then, most of the fiction writing that I’ve done has been a series of start-and-stops. Some character development here, a few pages of notes there, then nothing. Two or three times, I’ve actually sat down and sketched out a plan for a novel, along with some notes and some ideas. But I always ended up shelving them (figuratively speaking; the files are still in this very computer). Sometimes I realized that my ideas were stupid, or I decided that I couldn’t actually spin them into an actual book.
(It never occurred to me that maybe I could produce a decent short story out of any of them. I wonder if I should go back and revisit them one of these days. Hmmm.)
This is what usually transpired. Usually I would wake up with some Grand Idea. I’d work furiously on my idea for a few days before stopping and having trouble getting started again (or ever). And then, I’d start to have this train of thought: “Wait. What am I thinking? I’m a journalist. I tell other people’s stories! I’m not sure I can tell my own stories. Do I even have any of my own stories? Is this a waste of time?”
I haven’t hit that point with this story…yet. But I have started asking myself some other questions. Like these: How long does a short story have to be? What’s too short? What’s too long? How much dialogue is too much? How many characters are too many? Too few? Are there even any right answers?