I fell in love with short stories in my eighth grade English class when Mr. Patti read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug” and “The Masque of the Red Death” to us. I liked the emotions I experienced, the language and its rhythm, the settings, the characters that came to life, the mood. And Mr. Patti had a great voice.
Writing a short story is a challenge. A solitary writer has only so much time and so many words to bring a solitary reader through a complete experience. To give the reader content to reflect on. To have the story linger with the reader after the last word is read.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the short story collection I’m compiling and thought I’d give a progress report. Although I’m still doing final touches to make the stories publication ready, I’m beginning to give thought to other components of the book: table of contents, foreword, acknowledgments, dedication, title.
One of the problems about the Table of Contents is I have to decide on the story order. I’m looking at the stories by thread, by protagonist, by setting. My thoughts wander at times, wondering at the turns and twists my mind took. Where did that idea come from? Where did that sentence come from? Where did that character come from?
To help with the wandering thoughts and story order dilemma, I’ve enlisted the help of 3 x 5 cards. On each card are the story vitals: title, word count, page count, setting, protagonist, log line, thread. The cards can easily be moved around as I decide on the story order without my becoming involved with the stories themselves.
Another little problem is three of the short story titles may still change.
I’m working on a foreword containing a bit of philosophy about the collection. I know I’m not particularly a touchy feely writer nor a romantic. My bent tends to realism. I like good old-fashioned stories – stories with inner and outer conflicts, a bit of drama, inner discovery, an ending which may or may not be happy.
Also I want to thank the people who have been with me along the way – an acknowledgment page.
The Dedication was easily decided upon. Also selected is the quote by a famous writer I feel catches the underlying feel of the stories. I have to check if the quotation is in the public domain.
Currently, the working title is No Unicorns, No Diamonds. This title could change. My stories are not connected so I don’t have the option author Elizabeth Strout had. She titled her collection Olive Kitteridge, after the main recurring character.
I could take the name of a protagonist from one of the stories and use that as a title such as Jingo Sparks. Another option would be to use the title of one of the stories like author Thomas Kennedy did with his collection titled Getting Lucky. However I do it, a title is a big decision.
I’ve sent some of the work to my Beta reader. I’ll have to engage an editor for the final polish.
Beyond tending to the nuts and bolts of the above components, there’s also a satisfying reward about putting together a story collection. It’s the reflection that takes place about your work, the understanding you gain about your writing – the insights into what you have to say, into the way you choose to say it – the discoveries you make about both your writing and yourself.
And, as you assemble the book, you hope with each story the reader will experience an emotional connection, an insight, a discovery, a trip worth taking.