The Long and the Short of It

Surely it’s a matter of personal preference.  For me, it’s like being a kid again on Easter morning, and rummaging through the enormous basket of candy that the magical bunny left for me, burrowing beneath the fake grass only to find…wadded up paper.  Not a bigger surprise, like a new Matchbox car or Pez dispenser.  No.  Every year I hoped and hoped that the bunny would figure out that burying something beneath the grass would satisfy a child’s need for discovery and adventure.

But it never happened.

As a writer, I’ve written in many formats.  Novels, screenplays, short stories, and poetry.  I seem to excel at long form writing.  I can lose myself in writing a novel, am intrigued by the use of language in poetry.  Though I’ve written a number of screenplays, they feel a bit less fulfilling, like I’m writing an outline for a much bigger, more intricate project.  And since I’m not a producer or director, I often feel that writing a screenplay might be better left to those who are adept at filmmaking.  Not that I couldn’t be if I truly wanted to be…but it’s not where my passion lies.

Same with short fiction.  Early in my career, I devoured short fiction, thinking that it would be a good way to break into the industry.  I’ve written more than fifty short stories of my own, but, like screenplays, they have never fulfilled me in the way that novel writing does.  And as I progress in my writing career, I find that reading short fiction leaves me feeling like I did when I was a child and found nothing but wadded up paper at the bottom of the Easter basket.  Even when the story is from a favorite writer, with characters that I am very familiar with.  At the close of the story, I am still wanting more.  I rarely get the same sense of closure as I do with a novel.  It’s like the denouement is missing, or perhaps it’s that I’m missing it.

Again, I’m sure it’s a matter of personal preference.  Short form writing has its beauty and its place in the literary world.  As does poetry.  For me, though, I require more substance and heft.  I want to sit back in my chair, pondering the story I’ve just read, the characters I was able to meet and join on their journey.  Whereas short fiction feels more like a jaunt down to the local 7-11, novels feel more like a cross-country road trip on which I am a passenger.  I’m allowed to invest in a novel.  I’m committed to reading it through, to understanding the ideas and messages portrayed on the page.  To being entertained on some deeply emotional level.

Do you have a preference in reading or writing?  Feel free to post a comment.