Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Short Story Collections, It Seems, Put Scooter To Sleep

Of course, one advantage for Scooter in napping is it allows him to wake up at 6:40 in the morning and subject me to some rousing (in both senses of the word) purring. Since it's against this particular self-employed person's code to get out of bed before 7:00 AM (I mean, what's the advantage of being self-employed if you have to get out of bed before 7 AM), this gives me some time to nestle with Scooter (it's the only time of day he's even remotely affectionate)and ponder.

Lately what I've been pondering is Shade Of The Moon short stories. I have several things to work through before I even begin to remove the unsigned contract from its happy home in my file cabinet.

First amongst these things is the difference between a story and a chapter. I'm good at writing chapters. I've understood chapters ever since one of the many excellent editors I've had the good fortune to work with explained to me that characters have to do something in each chapter. It's not enough for the characters to talk about what they did in the previous chapter. The characters have to continue to do things.

Of course in stories characters have to do things too. So here's the difference between stories and chapters. Stories have beginnings, middles, and endings, while chapters are mostly middles, with a little bit of an ending, enough to either give the reader a chance to go to the bathroom or to make the reader decide to read one more chapter before going to the bathroom.

For me the real difference is chapters are easy, stories are hard.

But that doesn't mean stories aren't fun to think about, especially with a purring cat curled up beside you. I have completely arbitrarily decided there should be 14 stories, plus the prelude and coda (previously known as the prologue and epilogue, but prelude and coda are prettier words and much easier to spell).

This is what I have in my mind so far (I have nothing on paper, or computer, or whatever):

1 story about a boy who lives in a house that's being taken over to be used in a safe town and the Marines are doing it so the boy meets Alex's brother Carlos. This is the only one of the stories that has a beginning, a middle and an end.

2 stories about Alex's friend Chris Flynn, who's the character I most want to know what happened to. One when things are relatively okay for Chris and one when maybe things have gotten a whole lot worse.

2 stories about Alex, one with Miranda and one without.

3 stories about an as yet unidentified girl who seemingly has no connection with any of the characters, but at the end of the third story there's some kind of surprise connection. For a while there, the unidentified girl was a Duke's daughter, and while she might not end up quite so noble born, I do think she'll be a child of privilege and possibly not an American who happens to be here so she's stuck. Dukes' daughters, by the way, are Ladies and not Dukettes (I did research).

1 story about Miranda, because there's got to be at least one story about Miranda. Or maybe 2, if Alex gets 2. But don't ask me what the stories will be about because I don't have the slightest idea.

While I'm willing to turn my back on the vast majority of The Shade Of The Moon First Effort, there are a couple of things I mention happening while the family was on the way to the safe town that I would prefer to keep. One was Matt and Syl going off on their own and the other was Dad dying before they get to the safe town. So I'm trying to work those things in. Dad dying is particularly tricky, since I don't want to devote a story to it. Or maybe he won't die. I don't know.

What I do know is for any of this to work, I'd better figure out a whole lot more beginnings and endings and a whole lot less middles!


Anonymous said...

A couple of things popped into my head as I was reading your story list:

1) Carlos - we know Alex's view of him, but Alex may/may not be biased on this, and we may/may not get to see what Carlos is really like. The possibility that shouted out the most to me is that Carlos may be one of the few for whom this disaster is the making of the character. Agree or disagree?

2) Hal(Dad)'s fate - dead or alive, is he keeping something from the rest of the family? I know you've nixed it, but the family dynamic still screams to me that Miranda's adopted, Matt knows/has been hiding it because he doesn't like the change it'll cause if he doesn't, and that somewhere along the line, Dad and Lisa had a bad encounter with Miranda's birth mom, who's a doctor/healer in one of the safe towns along the route and he doesn't really want another confrontation. Sorry.

But please think about #1. Alex isn't exactly a saint, either. And we only have his word about Carlos.

Sydney Lakewood said...

Hi Susan,

It sounds like you have the pep back in your step--yay! Have fun.

Also, I know I love short stories that make me cry and other ones that make me laugh and yet other ones still that make me terrified--all in the same short story collection. I'm hoping that each story comes with its own emotional rollercoaster!

Another Susan

Linda Jacobs said...

I love climbing into your brain! How exciting that you have the power to create lives!

Anonymous said...

How about a story about the fate of Miranda's friend Sammi?

Anonymous said...

Maybe Miranda and Dan could run into each other in the near future, affecting the relationship Miranda has with Alex?

I love all your ideas, of course, because you are one of my favorite authors! I love all of your books and cannot wait for the next one to be published!! Keep up the great work! said...

Hello! I just finished all of the books. AMAZING! After each one I felt that I needed more and more. Now I looked up your info and was VERY happy to see you'll be working on more. I love your style of writing! You have a beautiful gift and I can't wait for the next book.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to Anonymous and the always better Susan and Linda Jacobs (who's always better also) and Anonymous and Anonymous and

It is wonderful to be able to create lives (and to control them, he he he). Life or death, it's all up to me.

Thank goodness I don't have that power in real life.

I did think a little bit about a Sammi story, but nothing really formulated. And I worry about characters running into other characters; it's an awfully big country and the odds are always against it.

I'd love to include a funny story, but I find it almost impossible to be intentionally funny. So the odds are if the book ever exists, the stories will range from awful to less awful.

Which isn't much of a range!

Bridget Higdon said...

All of these ideas sound great! I think it is a really good idea to write short stories. I would like to know how the relationship between Miranda and Alex turned out.

Also...maybe you would write a story about what happend to Bri after she left Alex and Julie in The Dead and the Gone. I would find that really interesting...

Keep brainstorming!

YOURYOUNGESTBIGGESTFAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! said...

one story about mairandia, should be somthing coming up about the sleeping pills and julie or ohhhhhhhhhhhh if there about to get married and she tells him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi tigerlily* and Youryoungestbiggestfan!-

I have considered a couple of Bri story ideas and I know I have to resolve the Alex/Miranda situation.

It's fun to be thinking about these things. Of course I don't know if it'll be fun to do the actual writing!

Sue said...

Hi Susan,
Whatever you decide to write will be fine by me!
I am on the 3rd book, "the world we live in" and I can't get enough of your stories! I am a 58 year old Grandma, and your books, though they are aimed at the teen reader, definitely appeal to us older readers also.
Your dilemma chapter vs. short stories reminds me of a group of books I read quite some time ago.
They are by John Saul and they are short stories called the "Blackstone Chronicles" They are more like short stores published separately, but all have something in common in the last book. I think this format would appeal to your dedicated fans.
Whatever you do, Please Don't stop this wonderful exciting series of stories. I'm Hooked!! :)

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Fellow Sue and thank you for your comment-

I'm having a lot of fun coming up with short story ideas. Of course the alternative is getting out of bed and feeding Scooter, so naturally it's more pleasant to work on ideas.

Cat food first thing in the morning isn't the most thrilling of things (well, it is to Scooter!).

Anonymous said...

I definitely think you should write a story about what happens to Bri when she leaves Alex and Julie. But whatever you do, it will be amazing!!! ps can't wait to find out what happens to Alex and Miranda's relationship. It should be interesting!!!

Jane said...

I've been wondering what happened to Sammi as well.

Do you think they would have to be equal length stories? I've just been reading a collection with a novella and some shorter stories, all thematically linked, and the longer story allowed more detail while the short ones kept the pace moving.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello to both Anonymous and Jane-

I think I've worked out a Miranda/Alex story that will satisfy everyone. At least Princess Summerfallwinterspring liked it when I told her about it this afternoon.

I have no idea if the stories will vary in length. I'd love to include a one act play in there, but my guess is I won't be able to figure one out.

Anyway, the important thing to remember is everything is in the Let's Have Fun Thinking About It stage, and not the Growl Grump I Have To Work stage, and the contract remains unsigned!