You may have read my subject line and been perplexed. You may have said: “Huh? What do you mean by that?” But please, hear me out.
Over the years, there have been novels that were composed of short stories. Elizabeth Strout wrote Olive Kittredge, for instance and won the Pulitzer.
And while I wouldn’t call Interpreter of Maladies a novel, it was a collection of stories that only intersected somewhat, Jhumpa Lahiri also won the Pulitzer for them.
I was reading FRIGG magazine this morning, the issue just came out today btw, and there was a five story entry by Vallie Lynn Watson. I enjoyed the works because they fit together, they made some sense of a woman’s life and did it all while staying in the bounds of the short story form (and mostly flash fiction at that.)
And while I wouldn’t call this particular collection of shorts a novel, I absolutely ADORE Paul Theroux’s Twenty-Two Stories entry (again, flash fiction length) in The Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories from 2009. I’m most enamoured of Fritz is Back, the very first story in that collection.
I’ve been thinking about this subject for such a long while, I wanted to put down some of my thoughts here. I think the short story form is so flexible, and today’s readers have shorter attention spans, the short story based novel could be a great marriage.
The short story form gives the writer a chance to turn a subject this way and that, and to show pieces of things, which makes the reader do a bit more of the work in their minds stitching everything together. I think about how Olive Kittredge is not the main character in all of the Strout stories, but we see glimpses of her, which arouses our curiosity more. I liked the idea behind that book.
Part of the reason I’m thinking about this is because everyone on the blogs is talking about NaNoWriMo incessantly, since the kickoff is next week. And while I’m not a novelist, I may eventually decide to take the plunge on the novel form, but if I do – I think it may have to be a collection of short stories. It certainly won’t be this year.
As a side note on NaNoWriMo, I give anyone who is undertaking the task this year – or any year for that matter – a LOT of credit. It’s daunting to me.
For me the idea of writing a short story that’s more than 10 pages gives me the cold sweats. Most of my work is flash fiction or just over/under that range. Part of me speculates that as I continue writing stories that my work will naturally get longer. I have no idea if that is true, but I have noticed that when I have a flash fiction piece that gets good rejection notes from editors and Ido my re-writes, it usually turns into a story that is beyond the 1000 word limitations of flash fiction.
If you are a short story writer, what length are your stories? I imagine, with no facts to back me up, that longer stories are probably much harder to publish. So for those that write the long-ish short stories of the 20+ page variety, do you find it is much harder to place them?
What else do you think about collections of short stories that form novels?
Filed under: Blog post, Short Story, Writing | Tagged: Elizabeth Strout, flash fiction, FRIGG magazine, Interpreter of Maladies, James Michner, Jhumpa Lahiri, NaNoWriMo, novels composed of short stories, Olive Kittredge, Paul Theroux, Pulitzer Prize, short story, Tales of the South Pacific, Twenty-Two Stories, vallie lynn watson, writing | 8 Comments »