Writing a novel is daunting. That said, writing a short story is not easier simply because there are fewer words. The goal is to tell the whole story no matter how many words it takes.
But what if the whole story comes to a writer by way of smaller, more intimate events that are all related to the broader, bigger, more sweeping story?
As a child I loved to visit the Art Institute in Chicago and go to the Thorne Miniature Rooms on the lower level. The scale is 1”=1’ and the rooms are diverse: There’s a French Salon of the Louis XVI Period, c. 1780, a Connecticut Valley Tavern Parlor, c. 1750, as well as California Living Room, c. 1935-1940.
The detail is incredible; a cup someone could have just taken a drink from, a cushion tilted in haste because of an angry departure.
It’s like looking through a window that could be where a scene in a big or small story is about to take place.
When an idea for a story comes to a writer it may come from observing or from life through “windows” of a brief memory. The details are easier to focus on through the lens of a single moment in time. The memory is centralized and focused; it is rich and contained like a vignette, “a brief incident or scene”.
The idea for a small story that comes from a detail of a larger, more complex story is much the same as looking into one of the Thorne rooms and inviting the imagination to supply characters and dialog for what might happen in and around those beautiful settings.
But is it a good way to put together a novel?
It’s one way, as long as the smaller stories carry within them a similar thread that carries the reader along and binds the total of all the stories to one larger story.
If that larger story has an overall arc where a main character achieves transformation and the reader feels a true sense of resolution then any number of smaller stories will have achieved the same goal as a novel:
Tell an engaging story with characters who transform in the end and deliver a satisfying payoff to the reader.
A good way to keep the bigger story in mind is to write out a description of what your story is about. This should be no longer than two or three sentences and will give you a great idea of how well you know you story.
This exercise will also help create a similar thread to run through all the small stories that you write. You should be able to “see the storyline” as you describe it somewhere in each of your small stories.
A great example of short stories that tell one narrative is Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout, NY Times Best Selling Author.
She wrote thirteen wonderful narratives all about one incredible character, Olive Kitteridge and won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature for it.
Keep writing; never give up, big bites, small bites, to “The End.”
Christina for PenPaperWrite
Next 60 Scenes Writing Workshop Sept. 23rd Atlanta, GA
The 60 Scenes Writing Method helps writers choose important events, add them to a Storyboard spread out over the Three Act Dramatic Structure using The Outer Journey of Plot and the Inner Journey of Character Transformation.
“If you can write 60 Scenes you can write a novel.”
www.60scenes.com Sign up now – Class size limited to 10