I have space issues. I’m a confessed claustrophobic, yet I sometimes dream of living in a tiny home, having everything within reach. I like the minimalist philosophy and the idea of using space efficiently. I’m a sucker for pockets upon pockets in a bag, secret drawers in a closet, or hidden compartments in jewelry boxes. There’s so much one can fit into small quarters with the right organization and planning.
That would explain my affinity for flash fiction. I love stories in a compact space, short shorts that insist I take my word limit seriously. There isn’t room for unnecessary details or dialogue. And, in a good flash fiction, more is revealed if you read beyond character gestures and listen to pauses in speech.
Thoughts on my preference for small spaces also helps me understand why writing a novel continues to baffle me. Moving from flash fiction to a novel parallels my experience when we upgraded from a one bedroom apartment to our first home, an overwhelming three bedroom house.
Rooms sat empty for a while.
The sound of footsteps bounced off plastered ceilings and wood floors.
Everything echoed, until we filled the rooms.
Filling out a novel with 80,000 words is killing me. And, I’m not alone. Jenna Blum, in her post on Grub Street Daily (“Can’t I Just Write 15 Stories About the Same People: Turning Short Stories Into a Novel”), responds to another writer’s same question: how the heck do you move from short form to long?
If you can write a short story, you can write a novel–because both of them have beginning, middle and end…The short story contains its own arc. The novel imposes its arc on a series of chapters–or stories.
Blum says, sure, you can write a series of stories on the same person, but there’s more to the novel that comes out in the narrative arc and plot. She says, “ If a short story is…a kiss from a stranger, a novel is a long love affair.”
So, I don’t want to sell my story short (there must be a pun in there somewhere), but I still cringe at the 80,000 word mark. What I want is to merge the idea of a novel being a long series of flash fiction pieces, while keeping in mind Blum’s caution not to lose the novel’s theme throughout.
What about you? How do you move from short form to long, or vice versa? Or, maybe you want to talk about itty bitty living quarters?….