Performance or Print?
As I sit here, at my desk, I am wondering about a short story that I have written. It consists of less than two thousand words and yet it is as complete as any lengthy novel. The story is rich with drama, intrigue and tension. The interplay between the characters is one of increasing tension and conflict before the climactic end. In spite of my immense satisfaction with this short story, which is of the mystery genre, I now find myself facing a dilemma.
I am happy that this short story is ready. I could seek to find a publisher who may consider it for inclusion into a publication of a compilation of short stories. I could self-publish it as an e-book. I could put it aside and write more short stories and seek to build a compilation of several short stories. I could send it in to magazines or web sites to seek their publication of it. I could even just post it to my blog and let anyone read it, immediately. Yet, my dilemma goes beyond this.
You see, I can literally see the story. I can see my characters. I see it as clearly as if I were there, in the story myself, as an observer. My characters are so real that I can picture everything about them. I care about them. I can see the setting and the scenes as if they are before me. I almost want to direct the actors who would play my characters!
I can see the story as a short film or television drama. I can see the story as a play, on stage. I can imagine hearing the story as a radio play. I can attest to the fact that it is the type of story that I would very happily watch, or indeed listen to, via any of those media. I can also imagine a back-story that would turn my short story into a full novel, yet it seems so utterly complete as it is.
All of the above possibilities for how to take my short story toward publication are open to me but, which do I pursue? How does a writer make the decision as to whether their finished piece is really a short story for print in a book or magazine, or whether it is a stage play or a radio play? How does a writer determine whether to put the pen down, so to speak, or to revisit their work and develop it into a novella or full novel?
I am not one for usually sitting at my desk and deciding to write a book or a play. I just start writing and then an organic process begins. While there are times when I will write in play format from the start, there is usually an evolution to the process. I just begin and then find myself as swept along as any reader who wants to know more, until what needs to be known, is known. It is an adventure and an experience.
For now, I feel that I need to sit back and wait. I feel that the work needs to speak to me, somehow. It is as though I must now wait for some form of ‘knowing’ to come to me and that this will, like an instinct, guide me as to the way forward. Do I aim to see the story in print in the form of a book or e-book or do I see the story being acted out on a stage or broadcast over the radio? Can I opt for all three? I wonder whether the fact that I am wondering this is the sign that this short story is not for print but is, instead, for performance?
Then comes my next dilemma. I have written another short story that I feel exactly the same about! All of these possibilities apply to what is a short story of the sci-fi genre. I am grappling with whether this story should be pursued within the context of a book or whether it should be revised as a performance piece for stage, television or radio?
Here I go again. I am now running on a metaphorical hamster wheel! How interesting this process is. Perhaps I will simply end up with a batch of short stories for a compilation? That would be good. Or, am I discovering a strong instinct that my work is for performance? Is the highly visual nature of how I see my stories play out a sign that I simply have a highly visual imagination or is it evidence that I am writing for the performing arts?
I am influenced by my childhood experiences of having grown up in film and tv studios, watching my dad at work. Perhaps that influence is simply ingrained in me, as a writer? Perhaps that influence was, in fact, an education and now I find myself compelled to write a screenplay or play for stage or radio?
If you are a writer, have you faced this process of uncertainty about quite which way to take your work forward? Like my stories, I now find myself experiencing escalating tension and conflict, internally. The struggles of being a writer!
(C) Dean Parsons. 2019.