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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Writing Large & Small by Rose Anderson

Writing Large

If asked to describe me, the people who know me well will tell you I am a shy and reserved person. They'd say I'm mostly quiet-- a person who observes more and speaks less. That's all true. The whys of shy are hard to define, but shy people know what I mean. I'm happy to say computers and internet have given me the voice I wouldn't easily possess in my day to day, face to face communication with the world. Technology has allowed this shy person to push beyond those inner constraints. Place a keyboard in my hands and I transform into a chatterbox! (a.k.a. a wordy writer.) My son, also an author, often marvels at mom's word counts. hehehe.

There's a reason I write large. Every bit of fiction I write starts as a personal challenge from me to myself. Can I take this idea or concept, no matter how farfetched or off the wall, and make it plausible? Can I make the storyline believable? Will it make sense? Sometimes it takes a lot of words to make this happen. Call it  possession. When the words are flowing, even Leo Tolstoy has nothing on me.   ;) 

Writing Small

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (2071 words)
Brokeback Mountain  by Annie Proulx (58 pages)  
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
by F. Scott Fitzgerald (64 pages)

Many authors write large and small. Catherine Cookson, Isaac Asimov, O. Henry, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, Agatha Christie, Stephan King, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and others, have all produced fabulously interesting short stories. Many small works have even made notably large transitions to film. O. Henry's very small Gift of the Magi was made into at least five movies. Big literature is often found in small format.

Some of my author friends write short stories in addition to their larger works. Their deft hand at small craft has left me amazed on more than one occasion. It has never been particularly easy for this wordy writer. A while back, I stumbled upon a weekly writer's prompt online. One-word, pretty straightforward. Participants use the chosen word in a short story and do so with 100 words to work with It was the challenge that drew me in.

The internet is full of online writer communities for writing of all sorts and most I've found have weekly writing prompts. Some have specific themes. I've participated in prompts that post a single word to craft a story around. There are others using picture prompts. All have word-limits and some of them call for very small writing.  I surprised myself the first time I was forced to create inside such limiting constraints. Each word and sentence must be weighed and measured. Their relationship to what comes before or after must be considered. I find this experience has made my larger stories tighter.
The following are just a few results from those I've particpated in. No editing, just raw, what pops out of your head, writing.

The Restless Wife (100 words for a picture prompt)
This restlessness always came on her when the seasons changed and stirred an overwhelming urge to spring clean. Her husband didn’t understand the need to put one’s life in order. It was a monumental task but well worth it to purge the house of things they didn’t use and never would. Life got so cluttered otherwise. Determining her husband’s unused bowling ball had to go, she unzipped the bag and gasped at what he’d concealed inside. She penned a goodbye note then quickly stripped naked. Gathering her spotted skin, she walked out the door and headed to the sea. 
(if you guessed she's a Selkie, you're right.)

Love Grows Where Rosemary Goes (200 words for a picture prompt)

He boxed the artifacts of a lifetime: her second-grade penmanship ribbon, a tassel from her high school graduation, a tiny paper parasol – all proof that his wife had once lived. Spying Polaroid pictures of their trip to Hawaii, his heart gripped. He lovingly touched a fingertip to Rosemary's smiling face before setting them aside. The rest he piled by the door for the morning’s charity pickup. Grabbing another trash bag for the bathroom, he cleared cabinets and drawers filled with toiletries never to be used again. Sunlight glinting on her comb drew his eye to the russet strands tangled in the teeth. She’d had amazing lustrous hair. It grew so fast between trims, she once joked that it would grow even if she planted it in the ground. Unable to bear the thought of throwing the strands away, he took them to the garden and buried them between her roses and lilies. Completely drained of emotion, he took himself to bed. Waking in the night to a heavy scent of damp earth in the room, he found her standing beside the bed naked, soil-dusted and smiling. Miraculously, she was newly regrown and very much alive. Together they wept with joy.

Ester's Bees (250 words on a creative murder) 
The Darwin Murders Anthology

Ester lowered the net around her face. Smoker in hand, she gently puffed at her bee hive until the bees emerged. As they fanned the smoke away with their wings, she carefully cut off a small slice of bee-covered honeycomb and set it aside. Bees were so essential to the world, without them there would be no crops, no food, no flowers... Ester loved the unselfish selflessness of bees. The same couldn’t be said of neighbors who woke at 6:00 a.m. and mowed down anything that might attract a gentle bee into their yard. When the Petersons lived next door, they shared her honey and loved her bees as much as she did.

Ester had hoped to be friends with Myrtle, Lord knows she tried. It just wasn’t meant to be. Not only was Myrtle deathly allergic to bees, she mowed the grass daily and was hostile when Ester asked her to stop. There wasn’t so much as a dandelion or clover in that lawn. Worse, Myrtle callously mowed down forty-two years of beautiful flowers grown by the Petersons. The bees missed that flower-filled yard. They missed those gentle bee-loving Petersons too. Ester could tell.

Silently moving through the hedge, Ester found Myrtle’s mower and quietly lifted the cover. She set the honeycomb inside and told the bees she loved them before closing them in. When the mower started a short while later, Ester heard a scream followed by gurgling cut short by silence. Ester loved the unselfish selflessness of bees.

Star of Wonder (2000 words --winter theme) A multi-author anthology. Too large to show here. Download it free.
The Exquisite Quills Holiday Anthology Vol. 1

I have a few more small projects coming up. The soon-to-be-released Tasteful Murders has my Une Sauce à Mourir Pour (A Sauce to Die for). And the Exquisite Quills group has two upcoming anthologies -- one for Halloween and The Exquisite Quills Holiday Anthology Vol. 2. Both shine a light on short stories 1000 to 2000 words. If you're feeling wordy, join in.


About Rose 
Rose is multi-published award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and discovering interesting things to weave into stories. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest. 


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Cara Marsi said...

I love the shorts you posted, Rose. Very clever. I have trouble writing large. I find short stories and "category-length" stories so much easier to write than larger ones. This short story by Hemingway is supposed to be the shortest story ever: For sale, baby shoes, never worn.

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks, Cara. It's a skill to distill big thought down to a few tight words. My mind considers ALL the details important when I write stories. My novels might end at 900k if I'm not careful! lol

Sandy said...

Rose, I've always written large, but then my publisher suggested writing novellas and short stories. It will be a challenge for me to write a 1500 to 2000 word short. Smile!

Rose Anderson said...

I can give you all my links if you'd like to try it, Sandy. The other participants always have nice things to say and give honest critique of everyone's efforts. It's been a great exercise for me.

For 1000-2000 words, you can contribute to the two EQ anthologies!

Tina Donahue said...

Fascinating post, Rose. Thanks for sharing. said...

Good post, Rose. I love writing short. It's a great exercise in creativity and a short look into a moment in time.

Unknown said...

An interesting post Rose. I am also shy around people and the computer allows me to hide and speak, while writing my short stories. Thank you for sharing and thinking about us small writers.

Judy Baker said...

Rose I really enjoyed your post I know for sure my brain would be challenged when writing 100 or 200 or even 1000 words what a great exercise for writers brain

Ray said...

The Darwin Murder Anthology would have made a good plot for The Twilight Zone or The Alfred Hitchcock TV series.

Twilight Zone: the submissive husband who used a hammer on his wife.

Hitchcock: A woman who kept killing men with a leg of lamb then eating the evidence until one time the lamb was still frozen and she got caught.

Rose Anderson said...

Hitchcock was a master of the small story. I think that's what he found so appealing about Daphne du Maurier's short story - The Birds.

lol Leg of lamb murderer. That's a funny concept.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

Hi, Rose! I love writing short--like Cara. We bonded over writing short fiction. Longer projects make me restless. But I do a few.

jean hart stewart said...

Great writing, Rose. I don't think I'd be good at writing quite that short. Waves of admiration from me to you!

Paris said...


The shorts you posted are gems! I loved them all but "Ester's Bees" was my absolute favorite. Thanks for sharing:)

Ray said...

Funny thing about Ester. I kept thinking the name came from esterification as something you came up with tongue in cheek rather than Ester a variation of Esther. I know if it were my story it could have been the source of the name.

Unknown said...

I've also always been shy by nature, Rose, but the internet has amplified my 'voice' and made me throw some caution to the wind.

I prefer writing novella length and want to get better at short stories. Don't have the patience at this stage to stick with a big book, although I still have two from long ago to finish.

Your Ester's Bees and the selkie short are fun to read.

Melissa Keir said...

Wonderful post Rose! I love the challenges of writing short stories but especially flash fiction (100-1000 words). These flash fiction pieces are usually just a scene but can become a vital part of a larger book.

I wish you all the best!

Rose Anderson said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone, and thanks for the nice words. I heartily recommend a small writing prompt when the muse escapes you. You'll be surprised. If you want my links to try for yourself, just ask.

JoAnne & Gemma: The internet is good for us shy babies. :)

Ray: Ester with that spelling is a name from my youth. I was in the hospital and one of my evening nurses was named Ester. I asked her about her unusual spelling and she said her name was supposed to be Easter but somehow the "a" was left off her birth certificate. On the other hand, esterification sounds like something I'd pull a name off of!

Anonymous said...

Loved your short extracts, Rose, and your Christmas short story is lovely. I'm trying to get used to writing shorts, but I always have too much story! Thanks for sharing your extracts. I'll try and use them for inspiration :)

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