Short stories have always been elusive to me. Despite the countless number that I wrote in my late teens and early twenties, I never finished writing even one of them. Although there wasn’t a name for it back then, I was basically writing flash fiction, though purely for my own enjoyment. Apparently, though, nothing I wrote interested me enough to finish it.
At age nineteen, I had 150 pages of a novel added to my repertoire of incomplete stories. Stories, novels—it didn’t matter: I was an equal opportunity non-finisher.
As I later learned through introspection, it was a combined fear of success and failure that kept me from finishing my work, coupled with the age-old issue of having no idea where I was going with my many WIPs. Eventually, I resolved the reasons for my unproductiveness, and with those fears no longer holding me back, I began to write. In the early days, I wrote four screenplays (still collecting dust somewhere) and two plays. Years later, my deep desire to be a novelist was liberated. I began writing books—and finishing those, too.
I first wrote three standalone novels in different genres (Crooked Moon; Squalor, New Mexico, & Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!), and then began a YA paranormal trilogy, The Desert Series. Mind you, I was still a short-story virgin. I never even thought about popping the short story cherry.
Short stories were alien beings to me. They really were.
The above quote, which is attributed to Mark Twain, has been attributed to others as well. I’m not sure who said it or even if Twain did. But what I do know is that it packs a whole lot of truth.
It’s usually much easier to ramble on than it is to take an idea and express it in few words. Plus, there are still so many novels in my head waiting to be written, and I couldn’t grasp the concept of having an idea that could be … dare I say it … a short story! (Rather ironic coming from someone has tweeted every day since 2009.)
So how did I lose my short-story virginity?
It was after I finished edits for the first book in my YA paranormal trilogy, Mystical High, and was writing book 2, Desert Star, that I found myself longing to write without any language restraints. It was time to release the pent-up literary fiction writer in me. I quietly did the deed, then gave birth to my first short story, and then to another. (I’m slowly putting together a collection for some time down the road.)
When fellow author Maria Savva asked me to write two short stories for the Triptychs, the third book in The Mind’s Eye series, I was eager to join my fellow authors in being a contributor for this fascinating anthology.
In the first two books of the series, Reflections and Perspectives, each author wrote a short story inspired by a unique photograph. In Triptychs, the same photo was given to three different writers who were asked to write a short story or poem inspired by the image. Authors were neither able to choose the photos nor given any information to jumpstart their imagination.
But when I was given these two photographs, although pretty, they’re not ones that I would have chosen to inspire me to write a story. I really had to think outside of “the box.” I had to find a flicker of something in these photos that resonated with me so that I could build a story I felt passionate about telling.
This exercise fascinated me because for years, I had considered writing stories centered around famous paintings, especially some by Edward Hopper. For example, this is Edward Hopper’s, A Room in New York, one of the many paintings I thought would be a great starting point for a story or a novel.
I have been imagining stories in my head for a lifetime, but I have always done so when looking at photos, paintings, people, cities, or just about anything that inspires me. Never before had I written stories based on what someone else felt passionate about. The challenge of writing these stories for Triptychs really stretched my imagination in new and extraordinary directions.
It’s interesting, too, that while viewing one of the photographs, it took me about a minute to conceive the story “I Wish…”
When viewing the second photograph, however, my story, “May Twenty-Fourth,” took weeks. Creativity is endlessly fascinating, don’t you think?
Triptychs is now available at a pre-order price of .99 until the book is published on March 16, 2015.
The other contributors to the book include:
Martin David Porter
Julie Elizabeth Powell
J. Michael Radcliffe