The Long and the Short

You read a short story and think, “Man! I wish there was more to this!” You see a movie and say, “I wonder what happens next?”

What drives your brain to want more? I don’t know exactly.

I do know that, for me, writing stories is a fickled task, or characters are fickled (take your pick). Maker started as a story I thought would  take about 5,000 words to tell. What made it longer (over 70,000)? The characters, the world they were in, and their situation. If I can get a handle on all three, a story will keep coming until I purposely break it off at a reasonable point in time.

In a way, it’s like scripting, shooting and editing a movie, for a movie is constrained with a time limit. There is only so much time an audience can invest in sitting through one. Depending on the visionary who got a hold of the initial story idea and wrote it as a script, we might end up with a movie that drags and we wish we hadn’t bought a ticket. If, though, it attracts an audience in, compels them to invest in the characters, and escape into their world, the impulse is there to clamor for more. (Movie studios live for this – as it leads to sequels.)

Should a writer start a story with this in mind? Sequels? Tease you so you want more? Use cliffhangers? I don’t know that either. It’s certainly not something I do on purpose. I broke Maker where it seemed sensible, because the next part of the story will probably be just as long. But I broke it at a point where the reader could envision a happy life for the characters without me writing it, just in case.

So I guess the reason to clamor for more is if you truly feel more needs to be told. Some stories only need a few words to tell their tale. Some need tens of thousands. Each one, whether long or short, has to have a reason to be written, with compelling characters who want to be heard and have something to show you. What you are given might be all the writer was given; you never know.

Can you be satisfied with a short story or a one-book story nowadays? Or do you need a huge amount of sequels? Please let me know. In the meantime, here is a snippit that tells a tale and also leaves a lot to your imagination:

He looks at her with furrowed brows. She smiles lightly. If he had any doubts before, the fact that she’s here now speaks volumes.

Yet she says nothing.

He sighs at his own folly, and it’s her turn to frown. His heart clenches as her legs tense to stand and propel her forward and out of his life. It’s not what he wants, but his brain overrides his heart, and his tongue, stuck in the middle, remains neutral.

She’s graceful, her steps sure. He swallows his heart down, but remains silent, not knowing what to say or do at this point. If she’s made up her mind on a sigh, he’s sunk for good. The only words he knows are harsh ones, learned in the very worst of places – not ones that could argue someone into sharing a life with him. He closes his eyes in dismay.

He’s lost again. Alone.

There’s a click, but it’s not the knob turning. His eyes fly open and he glances up at his doom, only to find she’s locked the door.

She’s on the inside.

With him.

She smiles lightly again, a clever twist to her lips says he may have some explaining to do, but she’ll listen.

And he tells his brain to screw itself as he opens his heart to her.

2 thoughts on “The Long and the Short

  1. Very nice. I don’t want more of this story. The best ones end right where they should, just like this one.

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