“Stupid Questions”: Story Fallout

Yep, I’m gonna turn this one into a book.

Last week I finished my last short story and overall I think the biggest complaint from my readers who have finished it is that there is a certain flatness to the characters. Obviously because I know the “whole” characters they don’t seem flat to me, but it absolutely indisputable that they are WRITTEN in a flat way. I know exactly why this is, too.

In novels, I am used to having a whole book’s worth of space to do my usual navel-gazing. I was under the impression that people were getting sick of my navel-gazing and characters doing their internal sulking, pondering, and fantasizing. It goes double that you can’t do this too much in a short story. As a result, I just kinda didn’t give any undercurrent to these characters’ mental lives, leaving them represented largely by their actions in the name of having a low word count.

Having “flat” characters is a bit of a surprise, ’cause after all, I’m supposed to be Ms. Kickass Characters. But maybe if I were to take this and let my story spread out and relax, I’ll get more well-rounded characters.

The flatness was exacerbated by the fact that both main characters are rather reserved for very different reasons. I know a lot more about why Nick—the main character—is that way than I do about his co-star, but because of this their relationship is rather cautious and neither one of them wants to give up too much trust or let down their guard. There are a few things I didn’t go into very much about some of Nick’s past relationships that I think would clarify his behavior if I were to have time to go into them. If I turn this into a book I will have time, though I’ll have to make sure the flashbacky scenes don’t seem too tacked on or “by the way, this explains everything!”-ish. Also want to show WHY he’s friends with his co-worker (even though they’re not very much alike)—because there IS a reason.

And I’d like to get Nick some physical description, dammit. There isn’t any. He didn’t care, so I didn’t go into it.

I think he could turn out to be a very interesting character if I let a few of his deeper layers show up and show a few other aspects of his life besides just slide-showing my way through his relationship with Summer. One interesting thing about Nick is that he really has a talent for understanding other people (and I mean on a level that has gotten him in trouble), but contrary to what you might think, this really doesn’t make him feel *closer* to the people he understands at all. He develops connections slowly, cautiously—not one of those people who falls in love quickly or develops emotional attachments easily. When he does get close to someone and finally starts letting down his guard a little, he has a way of picking them apart and wanting them to be perfect. He’s a pretty stable person, but just has this really high standard of justice—along the lines of “if you lie to me, cheat me, or make unreasonable demands of me, I am going to fight back”—so it is hard for him to form relationships.

As you can see, difficult to work through in a short story. Especially when I wanted to deal with other things besides Nick’s personal issues. Nick isn’t an angsty character—actually pretty calm most of the time—but some angst might filter in if I gave it room. Bottom line is if it’s in his character, I suppose I need to let him have it.

I’m not really ready to write another book right now, so I think I’ll chill for a while before I decide if I’m going to do this and when. I still want to know what the unfinished readers think of the story as it is, in its skeletal novella format, so I’ll wait for the rest of the opinions to trickle in—four people have finished it, and it’s out to six or seven others—but I may just revamp this and make it a novel like I did with Bad Fairy. (Though, ye gods, please tell me it won’t be another 255,000-word monster. I couldn’t handle that.) I’m disappointed its first draft didn’t really work how I wanted it to, but after all, this got squeezed out start to finish at over 35,000 words in seven days, and I’m ready to rest a bit now.

Even God rested on the seventh day.

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