The graphic is from one of JMW Turner’s sketchbooks. It could become eight feet tall and 15 feet wide hanging on the wall in the Tate, or stay small. Still a great story.
Prompt – “Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don’t write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be.” Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?
I believe the works, the stories, find us. They’re out there, floating around in the cosmic radio waves, waiting for one of us to be receptive instead of all “writerly” or “authorial” and there we are. The story sets its own boundaries for disposition as regards length, tone, setting.
Now, having said that, half or more of my shorts are reworked chapters or scenes plucked from longer works. I’ll have need for a short story submission, and “Oh, look. This’ll work.” You could do that ‘excise a short story from a novel’ with any number of novel artists. Those same artists have short story collections full of things that became novels (or didn’t) much the same as an artist’s sketchbook has impressions that may or may not become paintings. Sometimes, as in the case of Turner, the sketchbooks are works of art in themselves.
A different scenario is when a story will prompt with a line from a dead friend or an experience remembered that, when I sit down with it, will unravel into short form. Maybe. In a recent case, several of an old friend’s stories were the foundation for a caper novel. See, there I am again. The story knows best.
Genre is an activity and topic I shy away from altogether. I don’t think about any of that. I am not a formulaic or spreadsheet writer. I write stream of consciousness. Sort of. An editor once accused me of writing “these slice-of-life things”. It came off like I was an idiot for not writing heroic journey or procedurals or a twist murder walkaway or baking cookies with momma or escaping the trailer park or my alcoholic parents argued all the time memoirs. I was proud of the “slice” tag. Because, even if I’m no genius, that puts me in damn good company.
Point – As the quote for this prompt suggests, let the story find you. Write whatever it turns out to be. What did Hemingway say, paraphrased? Write one true sentence and the rest will follow. Where that sentence comes from is, if we get out of our own way, always a gift that deserves whatever it wants from us, be that 1 page or 3 pages or 300. Or 3 of that 300 that needs some air.
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