Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Why I Write Short Stories

I try not to be fazed when people say I write light-weight books. Mainly, because I do. It's hard to be taken aback when someone calls it as it is. I also write genre. Mysteries, to be exact. For the most part, they are well received, more so than I thought possible.
I suspect that might be because while considered humorous and light-weight, my books are based on deeper stuff. In the Alvarez Family Mysteries for instance, the first book of the series takes place two years after the patriarch of the family dies. The protagonist (Lee) is fairly disassociated from her mother and brother, especially after the father's unexpected death. What they still share is a business created by him, a detective agency in Silicon Valley. Through a set of circumstances - okay, a dead body, because it is a murder mystery, after all - they become close again. I threw in unconditional love in the form of an uncle, who loves all three of them, no matter what. In the best of all possible worlds, most of us could use someone like that.
This odd, four-peopled family represent a lot of today's family dynamics. Many readers see that. While the books might be labeled funny and light-weight, the reader often identifies with the underlying problems this small family manages to overcome. And most importantly, this is a family who reaches out, despite the fact they often don't 'get' one another.
But back to why I like short stories. After the initial draft, I look for feedback from friends and fellow writers. I have found that in short stories, short shorts, and flash fiction (so called for their extreme brevity), each and every word counts. Rambling is not permitted to the extent it is in a novel. Writing in these mediums is what hones the craft. Truly.
If you are having writer's block, stop what you're doing - which is wanting, anyway, right? -  and choose any three words. Then try to do a 300 to 500-word flash fiction around those words for a couple of hours. If that doesn't grind up your stoppage, make it a 50-word ff. It can be the most rejuvenating thing in the world. Better than 3-weeks in the Bahamas. If you can clear your stoppage while lounging on a Bahamian beach, hurrah for you.
There are many short stories written by the accomplished. They knew and know the benefits of less is more. The beauty is, short stories force the writer to focus on each word. Otherwise, the results are probably going to be just garble. One cannot redeem oneself in the following chapters. Often, there isn't even a following paragraph. Get that one word and get it right.

Ernest Hemingway is credited with writing one of the best 6-word short stories: Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.
Now, isn't that lovely? I mean, really. A whole life experience - more than one - is penned in six words. That's craftsmanship.

I have just finished a collection of my short stories, short shorts, and flash-fiction, called Corliss and Other Award Winning Stories.
I'm no Hemingway (I only wish), but I've worked hard on these stories. I'm proud of them. They were rewritten and work shopped up the wazoo.
Sell-ability? Forget it. Other than famous writers and the Best American Short Stories collection, short stories on the whole don't sell well.
But that's not why we write them. Certainly not why I do. I want to sharpen my skills. I want to challenge myself. Then afterward, if allowed, I want to share, because there's something from the heart in a short story.

Do you have a short story, short short or flash fiction you would like to share? Whether you've written it or not, I would love to read it.
Life and short stories are for sharing. And you might win an eBook copy of Corliss and Other Award Winning Stores.


Heather Haven, writer
San Jose, California 95135
Heather’s author page at Amazon:

Email me at: Heather@HeatherHavenStories.com

Monday, May 4, 2015

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

When I was a kid, I asked my mother why people lied. She said, "Usually it's because if that person tells the truth they won't get what they want."
That's probably more true than not. However, I find it interesting that there are so many words that mean a lie or liar, and most of them are just wonderful sounding. I mean, aren't we wasting terrific words on something that's supposed to be shameful and rotten?
For instance, in Tennessee Williams' play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy uses the word 'mendacity' frequently. What ham actor wouldn't want to scream that out to a packed house night after night? Tennessee Williams probably saved the word mendacity from obscurity. In today's clime, it's probably the only way anyone under thirty who didn't major in Drama knows the word at all. If they do. It does have more than two syllables, after all.
Then there's the wonderful words 'equivocator' and 'fabulist'. Equivocator sounds like someone who settles things, makes this right, equalizes them. And who wouldn't want to be a fabulist? Maybe not if they knew what it meant, but going by the sheer sound of it, it's fabulous. Yes, pun intended.
Then there's prevarication and taradiddle. Just great sounding words. I could go on and on, but as I am simply musing, my job is done here.
But to carry this a little further, maybe there's reason we have such inventive, colorful, and neat-sounding words for a liar. Possibly somewhere deep inside of each one of us, we are in awe of someone who can look us straight in the face and tell one helluva whopper.

Heather’s author page at Amazon: