Short Stories

on June 28, 2007

First, I wanted to tell Deb that yes–I do think that other forces are at work sometimes! I have already ordered MORBID CURIOSITY because I am totally hooked by the premise. I’ve been doing some research on similar subjects. Kids today sometimes don’t realize what they’re getting into. The occult is dangerous, perhaps even more dangerous than online predators which right now are a huge threat to young people, emotionally or physically. You can’t “undo” the damage when a kid gets a sicko emailing them porn, or when a kid starts playing around with black magic. The experience will definitely impact their entire lives.

Okay, short stories. I wrote a few months back about how hard it was for me to write the short story for the Killer Year anthology I’m in. It’s 5,900 words and getting a full, complete story out in such a short amount of time was frustrating, but at the same time freeing–I did it, and I can do it again.

One of the problems was that I had too many characters. I was trying to take one of my traditional ideas and condensing it, and that simply doesn’t work. You need a complete story, with a beginning, middle and end, but it’s not a novel, or even a novella. It’s a snapshot of a single pivotal moment in a person’s life.

Stephen King is the master of short fiction. He said in his book ON WRITING that the “art of the short story” was lost, or we were on the verge of losing it. Maybe for others, but certainly not for him.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is one of my all-time favorite movies, and one of my all-time favorite short stories. The adaption was so wonderful, and it’s a testament to King’s brilliance with depth of character, emotion, and a sparing use of words that a short story can be converted into a full-length two hour movie without filler. If you haven’t seen it, watch it. If you haven’t read it, pick it up. Like ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEXT, TSR is told from the point of view of a secondary character who is changed by the actions/beliefs/values of an individual who comes into the “prison,” someone who shouldn’t be there.

Last night I saw 1408 and once again, was impressed with the adaption. It was true Stephen King, without the insanity of Hollywood. Hollywood has screwed up so many adaptions that I’m always leery, but this one hit all the right cords. It was of the caliber of TSR, but that story is (or should be) a classic that will transcend time, like CATCHER IN THE RYE or TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. 1408 is what it is: the salvation of one man.

Stephen King has always written compelling characters, flawed, not always lifed, but always real. Mike Enslin writes about haunted places, but he doesn’t believe in ghosts. Until he stays in room 1408.

Fabulous hook, fabulous premise. And frankly, I wasn’t sure John Cusack could pull off the role, but he was fantastic. Much of King’s work are “one-man shows”, where there may be minor secondary characters (often catalysts for change, mentors, or tricksters) but the story is about one man’s journey. Sometimes he is redeemed. Sometimes he’s not.

1408 is scary. My daughters wanted to see it and it’s PG-13. I didn’t have a problem taking them because we often watch scary shows, they love SUPERNATURAL, etc. But my 11 year old woke up with a nightmare and couldn’t get back to sleep for awhile, and I ended up putting a nightlight in their room. So go to it with that in mind.

But if you can handle scary, see it. It’s more psychologically scary than anything else: 1408 is “an evil room,” but it’s a devilishly fabulous story.