I wrote yesterday about entering a short story contest and how it forces you to edit like you mean business. In the process of writing that post, I took a left turn at Albuquerque and ended up in DnD. Trust me, if you ever start gaming, you, too, will contract the virus that causes you to stat out the most mundane of things, just for the hell of it.
So, for whoever actually gets where I’m going with this… writing short stories, from a roleplaying perspective, would probably look like this:
Author Ability Scores: STR 10 DEX 16 CON 10 INT 12 WIS 14 CHA 16
A solid middle-of-the-road STRength as a short story author works. Flash fiction requires this attribute in spades — you have to hit hard and you need power in your swing. But short stories need nimbleness, so I upped the DEXterity, because flexibility is important when cramming together ideas and trying to come in under word count. CONstitution clocks in at an average 10 because it just doesn’t require the staying power that a novel does, day after day after day. INTelligence is still important — you can’t write without that. Well, you can but I don’t recommend it. I find WISdom comes to the fore with short stories in a way it doesn’t with novels simply because short stories soak up theme and display it so beautifully. CHArisma is critical for drawing a reader in quickly. Since they aren’t going to be spending a novel’s length of time with your characters, you need to leave a strong impression from a short encounter.
Going from writing a novel to writing a short story feels an awful lot like going from playing a barbarian to playing a rogue. With the novel, I need more staying power, effort. I can get by with a little less agility or cleverness only because I have more words, more time, and more pages to get my point across. With the short story, it’s all quickness and charm and the proper application of the right word at the right time.
Now this has me thinking about statting out a novel writer, or a flash fiction guru, or a poet.
This is how novels don’t get written.