The Perfect Beginning

As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, this month I’m writing a short story, for submission to a romance anthology. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a short story, because I’ve been busy writing contracted novels for Spice; I paused a couple of times, and started stories, but didn’t finish them.

This past weekend I began remembering how writing short stories is different from writing novels. When I say short story, I mean less than 10,000 words. The guidelines for this particular anthology call for a minimum of 6,000 words, and I don’t plan to go much longer than that. I want a lean, tight story. But to tell a whole story at that length, the beginning can’t meander.

The beginning has to be right for a short story.

Back in November, I started writing this particular story. It’s going to have both science fictional and historical elements. I began writing in first person, as the heroine argued with a colleague in order to give the reader worldbuilding and character information, and also setting up that she’d made several visits to the past. It was lively dialogue, and their discussion continued for about a thousand words. Warning, Will Robinson!

I realized that however interested I might be in the science-fictional background, I was giving the reader no reason to care about any of it. Not only had I delayed showing the reader what the heroine wanted, I hadn’t shown the hero at all. I’d spent nearly four pages not doing those things, which ostensibly were the reason for the story. So, slice. I started over.

After another brief stab at using first-person fell flat, I changed tracks. Enough with the fancy literary devices, I decided. I switched to third-person limited, the hero’s point of view. He’s in hospital, in the middle of a war, and he’s suffering, and he’s looking forward to a visit from a woman he’s met a few times before. He wants to move forward in the story. He’s a historical character, and doesn’t know his heroine is arriving out of science fiction. He’ll learn that bit by bit, and the reader will learn it with him. Hopefully, that will keep the reader interested much more than being told about the shiny future, no matter how much the telling was enmeshed in shiny dialogue.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen’s first erotic novel, The Duchess, Her Maid, The Groom and Their Lover (Harlequin Spice, December 2008), was translated into French and German. Her second Spice novel, The Moonlight Mistress (December 2009), was translated into Italian and nominated for a RT Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her third novel is The Duke & The Pirate Queen (December 2010). She has also published erotic short stories as Elspeth Potter. Her blog features professional writing and marketing tips, genre discussion, book reviews, and occasional author interviews.
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4 Responses to The Perfect Beginning

  1. Jeannie Lin says:

    Your story sounds fascinating! She's a little bit country, he's a little bit rock and roll…

    I cut my teeth writing short stories and it was a big leap to write a whole novel. When I went back to write a short, it was like an endorphin rush of nostalgia. There's no time to waste, is there? (Not that there is in full length either, but readers will read a little longer)

  2. Victoria Janssen says:

    LOL to "she's a little bit country…."

    I hope I can make it work!

  3. Kate Pearce says:

    I love writing short stories, always have-but unfortunately I don't have much time to write any at the moment. :(

  4. Victoria Janssen says:

    This one is giving me trouble. Not sure if I'm out of practice, or my backbrain is on the fritz.

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