Wednesday, July 2, 2014

King's Thoughts on Short Stories, Deleuze and Framing, Why I Write Shorts Better Over Summer and My Short Story Blitz #1: "Out of Field"

It's summer vacation, which means a lot more blogging by me. As a teacher, I get the summers off, and my wife and I decided several years ago it would be easier for her to pick up more hours at work and for me to watch the kids. Which, of course, means more blogging time. Sometimes, daily. Would love to keep that consistent through the school year, but then I have time to get up and write fiction in the morning, and that's about it.

Anyway, you'll be seeing a lot more activity around here for the next two months. Would love to keep it that active all the time, but dayjobbery, y'know? Anyway, one of things I'll be talking about once a week will the be the short story I'm writing.

Because I've decided that this summer I'm going to blitz some short stories. It occurred to me several months ago, while lamenting my somewhat lack of success in placing short stories, that really ... honestly...I don't pursue the short form with the same intensity that I do longer forms. So it's no wonder I haven't been able to place them anywhere.

Why do I have this sudden urge to write in the short form? I'm not sure. Part of it stems for my growing love of short stories over the past three years. I've discovered how much power they have. While novels often follow characters along a developing arc, and may or may not offer closure and resolution, short stories can be like quick emotional jabs that leave us gasping for breathe. As my love for the short form has grown, my desire to produce that effect in a reader has also grown.

And I decided that this summer, I'd focus solely on the short form, for two reasons. One:
"...if you want to write short stories, you have to do more than think about writing short stories. It is not like riding a bicycle but more like working out in a gym: your choice is use it or lose it." - Stephen King, Introduction to Everything's Eventual
So this summer, instead of wishing I could make myself write more short stories, I'm going to make myself write more short stories. One a week. I've started one today. I will finish it by next Wednesday, regardless of whether it's "good" or not, or even really "finished" or not. And then next week, I'll start another one.

The second reason for devoting the summer to short stories is I think I've discovered a key: I need emotional immediacy to write these short stories. I need to blast them right out. During the school year, I have exactly an hour and half a day early in the morning to write. That's usually it. This lends itself well to plugging along on novels and novellas. But the last two short stories I wrote and sold - "Scavenging" and "The Black Pyramid" - I wrote (the first drafts, anyway) over several days last summer, because I have so much more free time.

Now, I'm not trying to "recreate" the effect. But I think there's something in that emotional immediacy. So, with no looming deadlines, with Billy the Kid cooling his spurs, I'm dedicating this summer to short fiction.

The first story I'm tentatively calling "Out of Field." Its inspiration comes from Gilles Deleuze's thoughts on "framing" in photography. I first encountered this in a graduate class, Film and Philosophy, an awesome class in which I loved the film part but struggled a little with the philosophy part.

Anyway, in my extremely layman's terms, Deleuze's ideas about framing involve the concept (poorly rendered by me) that when we take a picture, anything outside the frame of the picture still exists, is still occurring, is part of another reality. So, take a student from Webb Community College who's trying to pass a film class he hates, a class he thinks is a waste of time. He needs to produce a final portfolio reflecting Deleuze's ideas, so he spends the weekend shooting digital pictures in Clifton Heights...

Time to get working on that story. Hopefully, y'all will get to read it someday.