Posts Tagged ‘William Faulkner’

Winter and Writing

Living in the north country of cold and snowy winters can be conducive to the writing life, particularly if one is not overly fond of outdoor winter sports, driving on icy roads, or bundling up for the weather.  I have been making great progress on my latest novel this winter season. Cabin fever is no problem, because I have been transported out of my present surroundings into the fictional world I am creating.

The reality is that the snowfall, unlike last winter that made a five-foot canyon of my driveway, has been scarce. The snow on the ground now at 4000 feet elevation in the Salish-Kootenai range of northwest Montana does not make for good cross-country skiing, so that I have not been tempted to put on my skiis, enticed away from writing into a winter wonderland. The scanty snow is making me think that winter has been cancelled this year for lack of interest. Old Man Winter drifted north and dumped his load on a small town in Alaska.

The winter energizes me to write more. In retrospect, I think I have always got the most writing done in winter.  I don’t mind bundling up, wearing heavy sweaters and Cabela’s underwear. How did William Faulkner and Eudora Welty write in that muggy, sticky southern heat? I don’t know.  Did fans, desert/swamp coolers, early air-conditioning, and a mint julep fortify sweaty fingers?  Besides, I like being outside too much–writing on my deck in summer–to want to live in a controlled indoor environment like Florida. The state could not have been developed without universal air-conditioning. So I’m a damn Yankee . . . oh, well. I was born in Chicago.

Since my energies have been focused on finishing the first draft of the novel in progress, I have neglected the weekly posts to “How Public Like a Frog.” I confess I have gone extremely private. A nature that tends to the reclusive and introverted has regrettably gone more so. However, I will emerge from this cocoon come February when we vagabond to the southernmost lower 48. I anticipate doing some bird-watching and fishing on South Padre Island. In the evenings I’ll be reworking the first draft of The Wheels of Being in the truck-camper as I incorporate the comments and suggestions of my number one reader and critic, Rod Rogers, also spouse and travel companion, fellow author, and jack-of-all-trades.  I’ll be sending more frequent blog posts your way as we circle the country over six-eight weeks.


The Long and the Short of the Short Story

I wanted to submit a short story to a magazine that has a limitation of 1300 words on the prose it accepts. All of my short stories are nearly 3000 words or more. I assumed a well-developed story requires a minimum of about ten pages, going by the yardstick of about three pages each for complication, climax, and denouement.  I derive my assumption about the minimum length for a good short story from such memorable stories as Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path,” which is about 3271 words and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” which is about 3779 words.

Flash fiction and short-short stories do not appeal to me.  A story of less than 3000 words is like eating a sandwich with only one slice of lunch meat and no cheese, lettuce, or tomato.  The upper limit of a short-short story is probably 1000 words. Some editors slice the definition of a short-short further by defining flash fiction as less than 750 words and sudden fiction as less than 1000 words or some such variation. The term micro-fiction has been coined for a piece less than 350 words. I found the task of writing a short-short story, however it’s sliced, daunting.  Setting aside my preconceptions about length of a short story, I accepted the challenge to write a story of only 1300 words.

The two stories of this length that I produced may not be memorable, but I succeeded in preserving the fictional elements of character, complication, conflict, and resolution.  Details can be pared away to keep the bare bones. I’ve proven that I can do it, but I still don’t like the minimalist approach.  Hopelessly old-fashioned, I guess I read too many Victorian novels when I was young.  Nevertheless, after trying my hand at short-shorts, I now appreciate the quick gratification of flash fiction, a natural outgrowth of the visual media. Short-shorts are to fiction what haiku is to poetry.