Being a writer is easy. You sit down, and you write. Convincing others, (and yourself) that what you write is worth reading is hard, and getting someone to pay you for those words is even harder.
But the hardest of all things for me to write is short fiction. My writer friends are now both nodding their heads, and laughing at (or along with) me, but when I approach the keyboard I think of stories on a grand scale, hundreds of thousands of words, with many interlocking parts. I want all the action, all the feeling, and I’m not afraid to take as much time as I need to get the job done.
In many ways, short fiction is the polar opposite of what I imagine writing to be. Instead of a sprawling narrative, you have a scene or two to get the job done. Instead of a complex web of plot, story, and backstory, you’ve got 10 minutes to plead your case, and ten words to capture hearts and minds.
Then again, in other ways it is exactly the same excercise. You need a hook. You need a hero. And you need something for both of them to do.
The main flaw in my short fiction is that I keep writing first chapters instead of short stories. With all that available mental canvas, I just want to fill it all up with pretty word pictures until I feel it’s done. There are a few dozen short pieces sitting in my submissions folder, each rejected many times over but always favorably reviewed. For the last few years, I’ve for the most part ignored the new stories coming into my brain, or at least shied away from writing more than the first few words each.
You have novels to finish, says Brain. You don’t have time for that stuff right now.
Unless…you look at what I actually do for a living. At its purest level, Narrative Design (game writing) is nothing but short stories. Tiny, succinct vignettes that blend together into a larger tapestry of play. I’ve become so used to writing 20-200 word short stories that I lost sight of both the big and small pictures.
Hook. Hero. Conflict. Resolution.
So after a couple years of crafting (or reshaping) stories for anthologies, I went back to basics when a friend contacted me a few months back about a fascinating new non-thology.
800-1000 word stories supporting an upcoming game release. A unified setting. An inciting event. All the room in the universe for creative license.
As soon as he told me what he wanted, I knew what to write.
And yesterday, it went live.
So, gentle readers, I present to you my first ever paid, professional rates short-fiction sale. Not only am I insanely proud of what I wrote, but I’m in the company of some of my favorite authors and game designers.
Because The Captain is Dead, and I couldn’t be happier about it.