Black Short Stories : An Excerpt from an Afterward by Dean Koontz on Writing Short Stories

Discussion in 'Short Stories - Authors - Writing' started by SophiaG, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. SophiaG

    SophiaG Well-Known Member MEMBER

    United States
    Aug 14, 2010
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    Now, this probably doesn't have a bearing on black short stories, but it does address the short story genre in general. I hope it provides some insight.

    " Most literary agents advise young writers to avoid writing short stories. Spending time on short fiction is widely considered dumb, unproductive, self-destructive, the sure sign of a hopeless amateur, and a reliable indicator that the writer is the progeny of a marriage between first cousins.

    This prejudice arises form the hard fact that there are very few markets for short stories. Most magazines do not use them, and annually only a handful of anthologies are published with all-new material. If Edgar Allan Poe were alive today, his agent would be constantly slapping him upside the head with tightly rolled copies of his brilliant short stories and novelettes, yelling, "Full-length novels, you moron! Pay attention! What is the matter with you- are you shooting heroin or something? Write for the market! No more of this mid length "Fall of the House of Usher" crap!"

    Furthermore, existing markets for short fiction don't pay well. Generally, a short story will earn only a few hundred dollars. If the writer manages to place the piece with playboy, he might actually make a few thousand bucks for it - and for the extra compensation, he will happily delude himself into believing that at least one of the magazines millions of oglers will, in fact, read it. Nevertheless, a short story can take two or three weeks -- or two months! -- to write, so even with an occasional Playboy sale, any author concentrating on short fiction will eat a lot of rice and beans -- an even, fro time to time, less costly food like hay. After mercilessly pummeling poor troubled Poe with the manuscript of "The Tell-Tale Heart," his agent would no doubt shriek at him "Novels! Novels, novels, you moron! Writing novels is where the money is, Eddie! Listen, take that weird "Masque of the Red Death" Thing, shorten the title to something punchier like "Red Death," pump it up to at least three hundred thousand words, make a doorstop out of it, and then you'll have something! We might even get a film sale! And wil you write in a role for Jim Carrey for God's sake? Couldn't this Red Death character be a bit less solemn, Eddie? Couldn't he be a little goofy?

    In spite of the risk of being pummeled by our agents and being seen as fools-dreamers-amateurs-geeks by other writers smart enough not to waste their time on short fiction, some of us still manage to squeeze in a short story or a novelette from time to time. That' sbecause ideas come to us that simply will not fly at a hundred and fifty thousand words or more but that will haunt us, won't let go of us, demand to be written. SO we get out our tablets, our staplers, our rolls of electricians tape...." (Dean Koontz, Strange Highways, 608-609)