Saturday, October 20, 2012

SHORT FORM OR LONG

I just read an article in last month's "The Writer Magazine" that presented writing advice from the inimitable Edgar Allan Poe who died at the ripe age of 40. He lived an addictive and tortured life but managed to create some of the best crafted prose and poetry of his century. Indeed, he treaded the first steps in the genres of mystery and horror. A writer to be reckoned with for sure.

Poe scribed essays about writing for a variety of magazines in between penning his poems and short stories. In one of those essays he talks about the value of writing short. His claim was that a reader needed to be able to consume a poem or story in one sitting so as not to disrupt the mood and tone of the piece. In this way the reader was able to keep the "whole" of the story in his head. He claimed that when reading a novel, where the reader is forced to put down the book in between reading sessions, he loses the thread of the plot and the mood of the fictive world created by the writer.

It brought to mind why I like writing poetry and flash fiction over writing novels. Yes, I enjoy getting deep into the plot and characters of my novels, the same way I enjoy going that deep while reading them. But for me there is something special about the short forms. Not only is the intensity of what you are writing increased by the concision of words and emotions, but I can keep the whole piece in my head at one time. I don't have to keep reverting to previous novel chapters to remember the color of the protagonist's car or whether or not the antagonist had salt and pepper hair or slender streaks of white in his black mane. Writng a short story I have the entire plot in mind as I string words to the end. I like that intensity and the ability to hold it all in my hand at once.

I'll continue to write novels in between the short forms, but now at least I know that the great Poe agreed with me.