Thursday, 7 February 2013

How We Hear Stories

Last night we had another interesting evening at Della’s class. She never fails to make us think deeply about the way we write. The reading that caught my imagination more than any other was the first half of a 2000 words short story. I loved it, but it was—as Della rightly pointed out—too wordy for a short story. That was when I realised I had been listening to it as if it were the opening chapter of a novel. In other words, I was listening to it with a misconception in mind.

Later, I got to thinking about it again. Would I have enjoyed that reading as much if it were stripped of some of its brilliant prose? I suspect not. To me, it would have sounded clipped and less polished: which says more about me than it says about the writer.

 I enjoy writing novels. I’ve had twenty published by small presses in the UK, Canada and USA, and I carry on writing novels because that is my forte. But I have never had any success with short stories. I’m simply not a short story writer and I freely admit to it. So, here’s a thought: I suspect—and I’m open to contradiction on this—that my love affair with novels colours the way I listen to stories. I hear a reading through the mind-set of a novelist and I judge it through the mind-set of a novelist. Even when it isn’t a novel!

I must bear that in mind in future when I offer comments about short stories.





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