Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Writing Question

Christmas at Santa's Workship at the Edsel Ford House in Michigan. Their daughter's playhouse is big enough to live in save for the low ceilings which my son managed to bump his head on three times.

Does this happen to you, writer friends? It only happens to me when I try to take a real story and fictionalize it.

I have a story I'm working on now that can be a flash piece if I stick to the facts; it can be a 2000 word story if I give them more nuance and texture; it can be a 4000 word story if I fill in the background more. And, of course, it can be a novel if I wanted to torture myself for a year again.

Flash pieces have become more attractive of late since there are more outlets for them.

Now it probably should be a novel, but I am not going there. So how do you know what length is right for a story? Especially if it's based on real events and could be as long as you liked.

Do you always know how long a story will be when you start to write it?


Dana King said...

That's a good question. I was about to say I don't know, but realized I do. Some strange thought process seems to automatically categorize story ideas as I think of them. "This is a flash idea." "Novel." "Flash." It's rare for me t change my mind, though I have written a flash story or three that I could use as a chapter in a novel.

I think this usually happens because I tend to think of ideas from the other direction. "I need a flash idea," or, "I need an idea for a novel." Once I put idea and form together, I think of them as a unit.

Gerald So said...

I seldom know how long a story will be at the start. I write the length that seems natural first, then lengthen or shorten to market specifications as I shop the story around.

sandra seamans said...

It's taken me a long time, but I've learned over the years to allow the story to be what it needs to be. When I first started writing every piece I wrote was flash, now I have to make a conscious effort to keep it short and concise.

As for writing real life, I've given that up except for bits and pieces, or just using the real as a framework for the fiction. Most of real is too unbelievable to be fiction. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sometimes I can't resist it, but it seldom turns out well. It needs to come from some other place, doesn't it?

sandra seamans said...

Trying to stick to the facts, pretty much ruins the spontaneity of the story, at least for me. You wind up controlling the characters and the situations instead of letting the story breathe.

That's not to say it can't be done and done well. I think you just have to find that place where the characters tell the story and you just get out of their way. A matter of not listening to that little voice that's reminding you that's not the way it happened. Something I haven't managed to get past yet with real stories. :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Amen. And I am very literal person. I find it hard to leave the facts behind.

Al Tucher said...

For unfathomable reasons I tend to run in phases. For a while everything I wrote came in at flash length. The current phase is 7-10,000 words.

I like using real events. I look at reality and can't resist the urge to improve on it. Or try, anyway.

Ron Scheer said...

Maybe it was my technical writing days, but I tend to write best to order. Tell me how many words you want, and I'll write 'em.