Last week, I reviewed The Book of Apex, Volume 4.
Today, as part of the Apex of Blog Book Tour, I have a guest post by one of the authors represented in the collection, Tim Susman. Tim wrote one of the most intriguing stories in the collection, “Erzulie Dantor” and in this post, he talks about some of his process behind penning this particular story. And the good news is that if you haven’t yet read the story, you can check it out for FREE!
Orders of Magnitude
In the last year, I wrote a couple thousand-word flash fictions, a few 10K-word short stories, and two hundred-thousand word novels. If pressed, I would probably say I enjoy novels the most. There’s a sense of satisfaction that comes with completing a long project, and of all the things I’ve written, the novels are the ones that have the most permanence. Still, I enjoy getting a flash-fic-sized idea, something I can write and hone in a couple days, something that gets a point across and then goes away; a short story can be an enticing visit to a world. In ten thousand words (technically a novelette, though I did write several short stories as well), you can introduce a world and a character and a problem and see the problem through to its resolution.
The way I approach each of these is necessarily different, and it doesn’t start the way you might think. When I have the idea for a story, usually the length is encoded in the idea. For the recent series of flash fics inspired by James Bond movie theme song titles (yes, that’s a thing), I tried to write the flash fics as spontaneously as possible, and that meant that I had to search for a flash-fic length idea. Sometimes they grew a little long—“Goldeneye” I think could be a bigger story if I wanted to expand it—but sometimes they ended up being neat little “what if” vignettes.
One of the dangers with flash fic is the allure of the “gotcha” ending. “‘My name is Jesus,’ the alien said.”—you know the kind of story. It’s a particularly tough ending to pull off in flash fiction because a twist ending depends on the reader having an investment in or expectation of the story, and a thousand words is often not enough to build up enough to make the twist worthwhile. What’s more, people are used to shorter pieces having twist endings, so if you telegraph that it’s a twist story, people will often outguess you, and then the story loses its punch. Of course, it could also be that I’m just not good at twist endings.