The Art of Writing: Short Stories vs Novel

Unfortunately, this post is not a comparison between the two art forms of writing, but merely a brief pondering upon the subject in consideration.

I've always believed (having read more short stories than novels) that short stories are somehow, sometimes more effective than novels. They can leave you stunned in a matter of minutes, while the overall effect of a novel is slow and gradual. For comparison, consider the effect of a sharp, piercing arrow against a slow, heavy club. (Of course, it also depends on the kind of novels you read - for this is no absolute generalization)

However, keeping apart the facts and conflicting views, my point behind this post is, basically, I was really touched by this short story I read last night, and I'd like to make a fuss about it. So much it touched me that, when I was on the last page of it, I was trembling with emotion, eyes heavy and ready to pour out any moment, accompanied with a heart beat that I've experienced only on rare occasions of extreme physical exercise. And so moved I was when the story ended, that I sat in silence staring out of my bedroom window into the grim, darkening night.

It ought to be remembered that in creating a short story, a writer has to put an immense amount of effort, if not as great as a novel but still considerable and at times even more. A writer has to setup an entire character and the entire plot just for a particular short story, the materials then would be discarded and pretty useless for the writer's next story. And it doesn't ofcourse earn that much bread as a novel could. And then, the required brevity can be painful at times, when you're forced to tell everything in a very restricted length, whereas in a novel, you're free to meander and develop the characters and plot from all angles if you like, whether you must or must not, it doesn't matter.

And the best thing I like about reading short stories, and mostly the precious anthologies, is their effective edification. I feel as I've extracted the juice from a potent fruit, and had the essence of learning the art of writing, in a quick manner, without investing myself or my time excessively in a narrow genre. So instead of reading fat novels on selected genres, I like to read many short stories on diverse genres. This way, even though it's superficial, you glide through realms of literature faster. And in the end, you can always settle down on what you liked the most, and then pick the big fat books from there. Counterintuitively, poetry being much more concise, can actually be much more time consuming and difficult to understand. So poetry is perhaps not a good start, but you can work your way into it - and it highly depends on which century's poetry you're starting with. Well, I'm drifting from the topic, poetry is for another blog post perhaps.

Anyway, the more I read, the more I find, that I'm merely on the brink of my initial survey, I still haven't found my so-called 'genre'. Here's the sci-fi story(The Bone Flute by Lisa Tuttle) that I've been ranting about. It won 1982 Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

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Current Book: "The Female Hero" An anthology on literary quests of females
Current Music: "Imagine The Fire" by Hanz Zimmer (best thing on the music planet out there)
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The Dark Knight Rises fails to meet expectations but sweeps me off the floor, all the same.

I had begun the preparation early on to have the best experience for TDKR. I had watched the 13 minute featurette, listened to most of Zimmer's OST, and even read a bad review or two just to keep my hopes down - but it's Nolan's film, it's hard to keep your hopes down, so I failed at it anyway. And then when I heard the news about the Denver shooting, I was quite turned off. For about 2 hours, I think I did nothing, sitting in my office, just thinking - and didn't even felt like going to the movie later in the day. It was a frightful shock and am not sure how much I've recovered from it.

But I made it to movie, trying to flush my mind of everything that's unfair and unreasonable out there, getting in on time, with the trailers of 'Man of Steel' and 'The Hobbit', building the excitement. I can remember quite clearly, the moments in the movie when I almost jumped out of my seat, and wanted to clap so hard or shake a fist in the air, or just yell, "Hell yeah." The movie was stuffed with those "cool" scenes, the scenes that are perhaps the flesh of superhero movies. But what the movie sacrificed in giving preference for these uber cool scenes was it's blood - it's theme. Yes, true, I liked the finale, it was a decent ending to the movie itself and to the trilogy as well. But in parts, I could make out that the story is stretched and you can tell easily too, when a story is "made up" after a brilliantly written earlier story (TDK) just to make an installment or next version. So it's a hard job, I don't blame Nolan or underrate his genius, but also I would definitely not consider TDKR to be regarded as much as his other works like Inception, Prestige, TDK and so on.

Another major issue is the story arc itself. It wasn't quite perfect, with the end being predictable, and not as uplifting as were the ends of Nolan's some other famous works. If a story has to leave an impression on the reader, the end must be quite unpredictable - but when it occurs, it shouldn't look strange - it should look justified. You should be able to say, "Oh! But, of course! How did I miss that - the entire story was building up for this climax - I just missed the clues - ahh now I can see the beauty and the way it fits together..."


And then the character of Miranda Tate girl wasn't at all fleshed out, Bane - uh Bane - I did not get any of his dialogue (perhaps that's just my problem), and the subtitles in a strange European language did not help at all. And then I guess, for me, it's all about the integrity thing which the movie lacks, if only every character would stay true to himself/herself - the entire story might have worked out quite well. And in that sense, the young cop - Joseph Gordon, was the only one who got lucky with a solid characterization. But the rest of them, even Bruce Wayne/Batman, faltered at some points. I think things would always be much better, if all characters stopped trying to be a smart ass in front of the camera. (Same prob. with HP7 - but by no means, HP7 or the likes of Avengers stand any close to TDKR when it comes to pure spectacle)

But again, who am I, to pick on these details, not every single work of a great artist is equal in impact or magnitude. And instead of all those minor flaws, TDKR did sweep me off my feet. And if I couldn't earn much food for after-thought from the movie as I usually expect to do from any brilliant artwork, I did learn the lesson this trilogy had always been giving us: Get rid of your fear. If the motive of the shooter in the US was to inflict terror, we must not fear - it's the least we can do. Be cautious in life, but not afraid of anything, never. Only by fighting our strongest fears, we can Rise.

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Current Book: "For The Love of Physics" by Walter Lewin 
Current Music: "Rumour has it" by Adele
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The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James: A Terrific Masterpiece

I first came across Henry James through his short story "The Madonna of the Future", which I had found so splendid and touching that I had made a decision that 'One day I shall pursue a novel by James', for his longer works are known to be quite long (but perhaps not as difficult as those of Joyce, Woolf or Faulkner), but nevertheless, since I'm often too picky about what I read, I had not ventured upon James so far.

And this summer, almost a month ago, I came across "The Potrait of a Lady" and gathered courage and time to read the 600 page mammoth. And today, when I'm finally done with it, I don't really feel I'm done with it. The world of the protagonist, Isabell Archer, is still vivid in my mind. The troubles of Americans and Europeans, and the mingling of their cultures, is neverending. And the most beautiful thing about the novel? It's the beauty of the portrait James paints as a true artist. He shows what a lady is and, is perhaps, supposed to be, in the times the novel is set. His multiple page long descriptions of the psychological working of a character's brain mesmerizes me to a trance of appreciation, appreciation of himself and his genius as a writer.

The reason I say a "terrific" masterpiece is open to interpretation because there might be readers who may not like the novel, for digging through it's prose is not fun. But I must say, it may not be exciting, it is indeed rewarding. The sense of accomplishment and learning that you gain from it as a reader and a writer, is infinite. So if you're up for some hard core workout, and have a plenty of free time, pick it up, otherwise go around, have some light warm-up with other books, but do come back to James one day, eventually, as I did.


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Current Book: "For The Love of Physics" by Walter Lewin (Hehe, this one, just for fun. And I need a break too. :D)
Current Music: "Why Do We Fall" by Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight Rises OST (@The world, are you ******* ready for this biggest, global phenomenon next week?)
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What are we writing?

While the context of this post might appear similar to something I posted recently and thus this piece is highly prone to being considered as another load of extra kilobytes on the fattening Internet, I'll not make any point in it's defense, accepting that yes I didn't have anything special to write this time (so I thought why not give some banal lecture on writing), except that I'd like to make one excuse for this post's existence by saying that this useless piece is indeed going to make a useful point on the art of writing. 

My point, never write pieces which are of no use or never write without a purpose.

We often (at least me) find ourselves in a situation when we yield, "Oh that, oh no, no, no, that was just for fun. I mean, I wasn't really serious about it while writing it, you just wait for my next story, or my next book."

Well, first of all, if we're lying, it's better we start acting (if not actually being) modest right away, and if are previously novel/story/work-of-art sucked, we should accept the fact right away, keeping in mind that at least our art and our style has improved, allowing us to criticize our works of past. We all try to be cool and hide our flaws, and try to make people believe that we're actually smarter than we appear but it's just that we didn't feel like putting all our smartness out there because we're feeling lazy or something. Yeah sure, I buy that. The truth being - we did the best we could at that point of time, and that's how it was, and we should still be proud of it - especially if it's an art form we worship.

But, but, if we're not lying, then we better be damned. That shows, we purposely invested lesser effort in an art form we love - wasted our time, and then hoped to dominate the world (which didn't quite work), and then on top of all that, we even lost our modesty. Pshaw! Shame! If you love something, why would you make a half-assed effort on it? It almost sounds like making love without passion.

So remember, writers, readers, no matter what you do in life, do it fully, do something which you'll be proud of in the years to come (especially if you have grand illusions in life - like me). If you write something, put your best foot in making sure it shines as bright as hot steel. The first drafts are often in bad shape, they need to be hammered and chipped to perfection.


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Current Book: "The Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James 
Current Music: "Where have you been" by Rihanna (Okay, this one is killing me. <3 Rihanna)
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