I stayed up far too late last night. I do that far too often but last night was kind of different. You see, I didn’t stay up so late just for my normal reasons (watching too much YouTube) or because of the anxiety I’m feeling about going to the dentist today (it’s just a cleaning and there’s literally nothing to be worried about so shut up brain!). No, I was up later because I was writing.
Now, if you remember my 19 Goals for 2019 post from the start of the year, you’ll remember that I have a lot of goals focused around writing. There’s a couple of longer books I want to finish up, but I also want to try my hand at writing some short stories. At least six of them for the year. And I was trying to work on one of them last night.
The reason I say I was trying to work on it is because I think I might be bad at writing short stories. Like, I’m not even sure what a short story is supposed to include. I’m relatively sure that its supposed to be a self-contained story that is short. Like with a proper beginning and end. Just not a novel length.
I think that’s the problem I’ve been running into: I can’t figure out how to make a shorter story that’s complete from one end to the other. I tend to imagine far more in-depth stories. I have characters in my head that just show up all over the place. Admittedly, they often show up in my fanfiction stories that play out in my daydreams: like what’s this character like in Hogwarts or Camelot or Camp Half-Blood. Then, from there, I tend to grow a little story around them that becomes their own world. But small. It doesn’t usually become novel length.
You’d think, then, that this would work towards the short-story format, right? A story but short. Except, I don’t know if its actually a complete story. Part of that might be because I don’t want to box my daydreams in. I like having these characters that I build up and change and develop in different ways. I like being able to put them back into fan situations and seeing how that will have changed.
I feel like if I box in the characters by writing a complete story, even a short story, then I can’t change things, tell different stories, or use them in daydreams any more. They become these fixed characters in fixed stories and I can’t change them any more.
I never really realized that this was a problem I had. I didn’t even think it would be an actual problem. Because, you know, that’s what fanfiction is. Fanfiction is precisely taken fixed characters from fixed stories and using them in new stories anyway. Even changing the characters, couples, situations, and worlds in general. And, I’ve already written this year on my enjoyment of fanfiction.
So why do I find myself running into this problem with my own characters? I mean, I have figured out this is the problem I have. I see it most clearly with the trilogy I am working on completing this year. I self-published the first novel (Wolves Rising: check it out if you’re interested, the link will be at the bottom of the post) this passed November and have really been focusing on finishing up the series. And I don’t use those characters in my daydreams anymore.
When the story was only starting to form in my head, sure I did. Not nearly as much as the different characters I have now, but I dropped them into fan situations and played around. But that doesn’t happen any more. They have their own story and it feels wrong for me to try and stick them into different stories.
Even if I really want to. Books rely on drama and tension to move. So, I make my characters suffer. And it makes me sad. I actually cried while writing the final few chapters of the final book (one of the first sections of said still incomplete book that I actually wrote). My brother couldn’t help but laugh at me and roll his eyes at the fact that I got so emotional about my own characters. But I do get that emotional. These characters are mine. They didn’t start as fan drop ins and they rarely ever stayed that way. They were my characters in my story, even if that story has roots in the Arthurian mythos. It hurts to tear them down, to have them get close and taking the win away from them, it hurts to make them struggle. But a novel doesn’t work if there isn’t a struggle.
Maybe that’s why a lot of people like fanfiction. Sure, you can write the story your way, but you can also write the sitcoms, the slice of life, and the meet-cute too. Fanfiction let’s you have those less then tense moments where old-man-frozen-in-ice Steve Rogers figures out how to use a modern television. Novels, and other max-media, might reference something like that as a gag but its rarely going to give you those moments to savor and enjoy. It’s got to get back to the action, the tragedy, and the drama.
I want my characters to have nice moments, to have strong friendships and a good school life, but that’s not where the series is going. That’s not what actually happens. And you’d think that since I really want my characters to have their fanfiction moments that I could imagine them, even if I don’t want to write it. But I can’t. It’s the weirdest thing, but I honestly can’t treat my own characters like fandom versions of themselves, even if I have no problem doing that for published works belonging to other people.
Maybe its because I’ve invested in my characters. Maybe because they are mine, and I created them to be a certain way, I can’t just make them act out of character. Doing it to characters in other books is fine, because I didn’t create those characters to be certain people in certain situations. Sure, someone else did but I didn’t. Maybe that’s the key.
I’m having difficulty writing short stories because I don’t want to trap myself. I don’t want to flesh out these new characters to the point that I have to set them on the shelf of their own single story and nothing else. I’d rather play Super Smash Bros than write the new original game, huh?
I think I’m going to have to start writing out the stories anyway. Because I think its okay to have a short story that ultimately connects to a larger world. Afterall, plenty of traditionally published authors have published novellas and short story collections based in the worlds of their longer running series. Maybe I just have to remind myself that the end of a short story, or even a novel, doesn’t have to be the end of the character but everyone needs a beginning.
Speaking of beginnings, I did say I’d include this link just in case: https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Rising-Beasts-Battle-Book-ebook/dp/B07K36MDXD/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549296493&sr=8-1&keywords=Angela+Alberry