What makes a story good? What is it that makes a collection of words thrown together to put together a picture or a story or an action appealing to a person who looks at it and think, ‘Ah, that was enjoyable’? What do people want to read? I find myself asking these questions today as I once more realize that I wish I had more material. I wish I could think of short stories, so I have more work to submit to journals, but I feel that I’m once more in a stage when I look at myself and see a Novelist. It’s a badge I hold with pride; I have many sweeping epics inside of my head, Tolkein-esque in their heaviness of lore, and I greatly enjoy writing novels. But it also makes me wonder if I’m incapable of telling a story without at least a hundred pages to do so. Brevity, they say, is the soul of wit, so what does that say about a writer who seems stuck when it comes to writing a story in 10,000 words or less?
I can’t be too hard on myself; after all, the two short stories I have published outside of my own journals were pieces of flash fiction, neither of them longer than half a page in length. So I can do brevity; I can do short. It’s just that lately, anything I think to put in a short story seems trite and insipid, petty little dramas about the little things in life, about having love or losing love or searching for love, about everyday stresses that hardly seem to be the thing that great Pushcart prize winners are made out of.
I want to change that. I have a little snippet of something that I thought wasn’t going anywhere, but I forced myself to write at least a page of it, and I think I might have something there. It’s a quirky little metaphorical piece that actually reflects the way I’ve been feeling about my short fiction lately; it’s about producing something that you think is bland and hideous, but someone else still sees the beauty in it. You can’t understand it, but you give yourself over to the appreciation of the other person. It isn’t about you; it’s about them. So I hope that soon I can convince myself to really put the petal to the metal on that short story and whip something up; I think it would be good for me to write about that topic, and I can actually see it becoming a piece I could potentially send out. I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous. I have such hopes for the piece that I’m worried I’ll start it and it’ll just turn to crap, and then where would I be?
That right there has been my problem. It shouldn’t matter if it’s not very good; if it doesn’t do well at first, keep improving it until it’s perfect and you find someone who finds the same beauty in your grey mass of words that the characters in the story discover.