One thing I haven’t been able to do for the last couple of years is write short stories.
I haven’t lost the ability, or at least I don’t think I have. It’s that I’m spending all my time writing novels. Which, since those are under contract, is only right. But I still miss short stories. Especially that they’re short.
One of the most fun things, for me, about writing short stories was the beginnings. Unless I was on a deadline for a particular piece, I would often write several stories at once, and have several more in the very early stages. If I was stuck on one, I’d open a new file and start writing another, usually with very little idea where that story was going to go. Sometimes those beginnings linger, untouched, for months or even years, before I figure out where I want them to go. And then, it’s magic.
Can you tell I really, really enjoy openings? There’s so much possibility there, so many ways the story can go afterwards.
Here are a few openings that are still lingering on my laptop:
Elama studied the Torah with her father, and she went to a man in the desert and studied magic, but she finally settled on electrical engineering because she could make good money doing that and make a good marriage because her classes would be full of eligible candidates. By the time she was near graduation, though, she’d finally realized that she was a lesbian and wasn’t going to marry a man any time soon, if ever. It depended on what her parents thought about having a grandchild come out of a turkey baster.
“My Grandmother’s Love Letters”
I stayed with you while Mom went to buy you Cheerios and some Kentucky Fried for our lunch together. You told me how your mama said not to marry Carter, that he was nothing but bad news. You told me Carter used to come see you hungover, but he brought you candy, and then the two of you would go out honky-tonking. He would drive his shiny Studebaker that he bought with his payoff from the merchant marine and you would dance the night away with him and his friends. You came home so late your sister would’ve had to do the supper dishes, but you’d pay her with the candy, since you didn’t want to get fat. Carter didn’t like fat women.
We played a game, Octavius and I, but while we played he didn’t know it was a game.
The most important toy involved was a tape recorder.
“You’re weak,” Octavius said into the microphone. His eyes flickered with candle flame reflections, gold and diamond-wet shine and vampire red. The candlelight shimmered on his chocolate-dark hair and seemed to spark off the tip of a fang.
I’d love to get back to these some day!
Related post: Novel Beginnings: On Opening Sentences.