I’m on a blogging break this week, but guest bloggers have stepped up to fill the gap. First up is Liana Mir, talking to us about her experience moving from writing flash fiction to longer stories. Welcome, Liana!
I cut my teeth on flash fiction, though from the time I was a child, I was in love with the full-length novel. Somewhere in between my childhood and adulthood, I absorbed the adage, “Make every word count.” I’m here to tell you that those words are false—except when they’re not.
Writing flash fiction is writing to the bone. Literally every word needs to pull its own weight. At three hundred words or less, the average reader will read and pay attention to every word, and even a single wrong vocabulary choice can kill an otherwise good story.
A short story requires a little meat on those bones, a few ligaments and tendons to bind everything together and keep it walking in the right direction. At a certain point, transitions and grounding phrases become necessary. Tying phrases together with “needless” conjunctions and prepositions makes for easier reading. You have more room to pay attention to style.
Novellas have flesh. They hold the shape of a novel with only the necessary meat to fill out all the crevices. They may even have the skin and hair and eyelashes and all the pretty details. At this point, repetition and yes, that horribly maligned friend of writers, redundancy, become powerful tools to aid a reader who would otherwise lose track of the details. This is a length where it is easy to beat a revelation or theme over the reader’s head, but if you only state a thing once, it registers as invisible.
Divergent by Veronica Roth is an amazing young adult novel. The protagonist’s mother’s name is Natalie and her father’s is Andrew. These names are stated only once in the entire book. Nobody I know, including myself, had any idea of what their names were without either looking them or being told.
Repetition is a good thing.
Novels, now, these are the full-blown deal. They wear clothes. Your average reader—who is not suffering from such word-related psychological condition—does not, and does not want to, read every word. If every single word earns its place in a given sentence, on a given page, or worst of all, in a given book, then the reader has to work very, very hard to not miss anything. Note: many bestsellers are accused of bad writing because they make the reading easy.
After writing flash fictions, especially drabbles of exactly one hundred words, for a few years, I found that a common complaint cropped up about most of my work. It was hard to read. People had to go back and reread to get the point. Readers would love my writing but have no idea what was going on. This was more than a little disturbing and came solidly back to my habit of writing only the bones: omitting transitional words and phrases that were supposedly “unnecessary,” cutting out descriptions, showing with too few repetitions, or failing to make a point by telling, in addition to showing.
Bones can sing. Bones can dance. Unless you’re writing flash fiction, though, you want some flesh.
Bio: Liana Mir reads, writes, and wrangles the muses from her mundane home in the Colorado Rockies and, occasionally, from the other side of the Barrier.