Sunday, July 3, 2016

Guest Post: Kaye George on “Why Should a Novelist Write Short Stories?”

Today Kaye George offers a few thoughts on why novelists also frequently write short stories.

Kaye George: “Why Should a Novelist Write Short Stories?”

Not all novelists should, of course. But many do. Ever wonder why?

I know that some big name authors have been asked by their publishers to put out short stories in between the novels, to keep their names before the public, and to remind the readers that they’re out there. Another book is coming! Here’s this little story in the meantime to hold you over.

Sometimes a novelist will want to explore a minor character further. A short story featuring that character is an excellent way to do this. You can give that character center stage and, in writing his or her own story, discover things about them that can be used in a later novel.

Another thing a novelist can explore in a short story is background. Prequels are a good way to let the reader in on the backstory in detail. You can indulge yourself and expand on the life of the main character, and others, by delving into what exactly makes them tick.

It’s fun to put your characters into another setting and see what happens. This is another fun indulgence. They will be out of their element and can show different sides of their personalities to the readers.

It’s also very fun to go together with another writer or writers and put your characters into adventures together. This is a way to promote your own work to a wider audience since the readers will consist of the fans of all the writers.

You can even age your character and look into the future. You can use a time period that you don’t expect your series to get into, to see what the main character will be like in their twilight years.

There are quite a few what-ifs that can be explored this way. These are just a few. I’ll bet you can think of more.

Kaye George ©2016

Kaye George, national-bestselling and multiple-award-winning author, writes several mystery series: Imogene Duckworthy, Cressa Carraway (Barking Rain Press), People of the Wind (Untreed Reads), and, as Janet Cantrell, the Fat Cat cozy mysteries. (Berkley Prime Crime). Her short stories appear in anthologies such as Murder On Wheels, magazines, and her own collection, A Patchwork of Stories. She reviews for Suspense Magazine. She lives in Knoxville, TN.


Jacqueline Seewald said...

I agree, Kaye. I think it's good for novelists to work in a variety of genres and styles. It sharpens their literary skills. Short story writing provides an excellent opportunity to experiment creatively.

Kaye George said...

Thanks, Jacqueline. There are lots of other reasons to write short, of course, but these are what I could think of for a novelist to venture into the territory if they haven't. Which I should have said in the post! :)

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Great post, Kaye. I have started writing more short fiction, and I'm now planning a novella to see where that takes me. I find reading short fiction and novellas a nice change from novels as well. There's always time for a short story!

jrlindermuth said...

I'm with you on this, too, Kaye. Good post. There's precedent in the fact many of the writers we admire from the past routinely wrote short stories between their longer works. Some are actually better known today for their shorts than for the books.

Kaye George said...

Yes, I should have mentioned that you can fit one or two in while you're between novels. Thanks, Judy!

Earl Staggs said...

Dear Kaye, Jacqueline, and Judy. I agree with all 3 of you. (Maybe I'm not so dumb after all.)
I've given a presentation several times called "Every Novelist Should Write Short Stories" in which I use the reasons you each gave and a few more. It's too bad there aren't more paying markets for our short stuff.

Jan Christensen said...

Great list of ideas for writing short stories, Kaye, some of which I hadn't thought of. I often advise beginning writers to write shorts. I know I learned a lot doing that. But the best thing about them for me is simply that I enjoy writing them so much.

Unknown said...

I like experimenting with short fiction and it's nice to have a project completed in between the big projects!

Anonymous said...

I hadn't thought about aging a character. Interesting idea.

Kaye George said...

Nothing new under the sun, eh John?

Earl, great minds, except yours is greater because you have more reasons. I haven't heard that presentation.

Me too, Jan. Short stories are my first love.

Valerie, yes, a good sense of accomplishment in a shorter time.

Thanks for stopping by, Kathy.

If I ever do this post again, I now have more ideas! Thanks, all.

Susan Oleksiw said...

I think you're spot on, Kaye. I hear too many novelists talking about short stories as a waste of time, but I find them challenging and rewarding. I can do things in a short story that I can't do in a novel, explore a single character or situation and just go wherever the story takes me. I don't have that freedom in a mystery novel despite the greater length. In addition, I think writers learn a lot from writing a successful short story--it's a different kind of discipline that hones your skills. Thanks for the list of suggestions as well.

Kaye George said...

Yes, I agree. Novels have room for things you can't do in short stories, and vice versa. I started out in short stories, but I've grown to love writing both. You're welcome!