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  • Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Anna Reynolds at 12:55 on 17 November 2003
    I just heard a nice quote from a well known writer about the different ways to approach short story and longer fiction writing. Writing a novel is like going into a dark room that's full of secrets, and turning the overhead light full on; sooner or later you see everything in the room. Writing a short story is like going into a dark room full of secrets and shining a torch on one spot; you might not see as much, but you see it in incredible detail. What do people think about this? I'm finding it quite useful as a way to get my head round approaching different types of writing. is it accurate?
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Ticonderoga at 21:42 on 17 November 2003

    Sounds damned near spot on to me. Poetry is also the torch-beam, but, the beauty of short stories and poems at their best is that if the beam is sharply focussed and held with a steady hand, playing on the right spot, your imagination will fill out the rest of the room with remarkable accuracy!
    Also sprach Mr T........

  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Jumbo at 01:13 on 18 November 2003
    I like this. Very much liking images and pictures, I can see this helping me to distinguish between the two types of prose - ie short stories and novels. Sorry Mike, don't know much (anything?) about poetry.

    I wonder if it's possible to stretch the analogy a little further (I hope analogy is the right word!) to compare the difference in construction of a short story and a novel.

    Perhaps in a short story you turn on the torch and straight away your reader can see what is front of them: they are dropped directly into your story, dropped into the bright illumination of the torch beam.
    With the brighter light of the novel, perhaps our reader's eyes need to have time to become acustomed to the glare, and, therefore, we need to turn the light on with a dimmer switch, illuminating more and more as we ease them into the tale.

    Or maybe it's notlike that at all! Oh, well!!

  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by bluesky3d at 08:30 on 18 November 2003
    Certainly a novel does not reveal everything in one go, so you could argue that it could be more like, searching a house and gradually revealing the truth about a whole suite of rooms, rather than seeing everything in one go with the overhead light. The reader wants to be taken on the experience of everything gradually being revealed. If the whole layout were understood in the first chapter and the rest were filling in details, it would be pretty boring. The analogy could be extended to the synopsis being like the plan of the house.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Account Closed at 10:25 on 18 November 2003
    Not sure, myself. I usually write short stories to simply create a scenario, manipulate something/someone and generate an outcome. Not much detail involved at all really. By contrast, a novel is going to contain far more detail in terms of character background, plot device, surrounding events, locations etc.

    I suppose it depends on the writer's style though.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Anna Reynolds at 12:56 on 18 November 2003
    These are great additions to my original (nicked from someone else but can't remember who.). I use them a lot when I'm teaching, to try and emphasise the different skills or approach or thinking you need for different types of writing. It's not just about number of words, something that not all writers understand, so the analogy helps I think. I like the plan of the house...
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Becca at 06:35 on 19 November 2003
    Hi Anna. Yes, I liked the torch beam idea. But you could also describe the difference as being like long distance running and high jumping.
    I've also got to describe the difference next week in a class. Someone asked me to read their poem in the short story writing class a week or so back on the basis that poetry and short stories were both made of words. So I asked if she'd ask the man who did her plumbing to tile her bathroom floor on the basis that both jobs were done by 'handymen', (for want of a better word). Harsh it may have been, but out of respect for the different forms, reasonable.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Anna Reynolds at 16:00 on 19 November 2003
    Becca, you're absolutely right- allowing the different- very different- forms of writing to all become one if they're words is a lazy way of not learning the skills and craft of each one, to my mind. I've had this when teaching too. I like the long distance running and hihg jumping too, that will go into my trick box.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by bluesky3d at 17:24 on 19 November 2003
    What does it gain us to make too great the disinction between poetry and prose? - To do so might make poetry seem too precious and prose to ordinary.

    Likewise, I am not convinced by the need to make too great a distinction between short stories and longer stories.

    I would see the difference to be no more than producing a sketch and producing a painting, essentially they are the same activity and each informs he other.


    To carry on the painting analogy - poetry might be abstract art, while a short story a pencil sketch - I know it is a little provocative but the implication is that one should never comment on a poem if one is only an 'expert' in short stories and therefore not qualified to have an opinion in another field - that doesn't sound a very convincing to me.


    - *convincing argument to me
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Becca at 21:55 on 19 November 2003
    Hi Andrew, hope all is well with you. Well, the thing about a pencil sketch for a painter is that they are usually, although not exclusively, 'notes' for a painting. So that would imply, if you took it too literally, that a short story is only a working thing for something that hasn't yet been created. Any short story writing would shoot you for that! What Anna and I were saying is that the three forms are mediums in their own right with their own craft secrets, if that doesn't make me sound like someone from the woodcraft folk.And I don't think preciousness comes into it with poetry, anyone who has heard really beautiful poetry read out knows the difference between that and di-dum-di-dum-di-dum, when people are imitating what they think the form is. If I were to crit poetry, I'd put myself through a course first at least, to see if I could grasp some of the stuff of it. Otherwise I could pretend couldn't I, that because I was a short story writer I had the insight it took, knowing all the time I may well be able to instantly see bad poetry, but of the works that were getting there, I wouldn't know how close or how good they were. That would be arrogant of me.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by bluesky3d at 22:22 on 19 November 2003
    So one needs to go on a course to learn how to react to ones own emotions?
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Anna Reynolds at 23:25 on 19 November 2003
    Surely responding to writing in a constructive way isn't just about emotion, though? That way, it could be simple as 'I like this' or 'I don't like this'. And that could be a reaction based on one's life experience, etc, rather than looking at the craft itself. The reason why I asked the question and want to explore some ideas is, I think, because different media/forms of writing have seperate and distinct skills; sure, you can admire, or not like, a poem or story or whatever, but if the writer wants a variety of responses, some of those are bound to be about the form itself. For instance, a lot of short stories are too big, too long for their form; sometimes they read like synopses, painted with broader strokes than a short story needs. So thinking about analogies or metaphors for each different form can (I stress can) be helpful. It helps me, anyway.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Ellenna at 23:23 on 20 November 2003
    What I am gradually getting more and more disturbed about is how many people are saying they don't feel qualified to comment on poetry... what is it? Poetry is simply another way of painting a picture ... and if you enjoy it then comment in that way...I am not qualified to comment on short stories, novels then..because i dont write them? I comment on pieces that I appreciate.and enjoy whatever they are...surely the same goes .. creativity should break down barriers and be free... just enjoy whatever form it takes ! There is room for all types of comment..coming from different perspectives. intuitive,emotional.technical,logical, etc....


  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Ticonderoga at 23:44 on 20 November 2003

    Ellie - hurrah for you! The 'expert' culture is an aspect of cultural elitism, which creates the barriers which, in turn, make many people feel excluded from certain areas of artistic activity, as they are 'not qualified' to participate critically or creatively. We do need to understand the differences between the disciplines, but all should be free to critcise, as art is about communication and everyone is able & entitled to say whether or not a work speaks to him or her.
  • Re: Short story v novel- how about this?
    by Hilary at 09:39 on 21 November 2003
    I think it all comes down to whether the cause or effect is more important.

    Do we write to conform with a set of predetermined rules or for our own pleasure?

    In other words, is the cause more important than the people it serves?

    Think about it...we use money but have become a slave to it (well, I have anyway).

    I don't have any answer to this one but would assume there's a fine balance in the centre somewhere.

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