Spanning the divide

I’ve had cause to re-read several of my short stories tonight. It confirmed something that Ange has been saying for some time. There was a patch of several months – one of my more productive – where the stories were produced thick and fast and have a feeling of ‘sameness’ about them. In fact, it’s quite a discouraging concept.

Further examination of the stories, several of which I considered to be ‘pretty good’ reveals a proliferation of adjectives and a stylistic approach Ange has coined the ‘Shane three part sentence’.

The good news is the re-read of my newest stuff confirms an element of sophistication creeping into my style. To me at least, this is obvious in The Hanged Girl and Stealing Fire. I can honestly say I’ve learned from a quite scathing review of my first short story critiqued by the KSP SF group. That particular story, Genesis Six, was a turning point I feel. The original draft was perhaps the culmination of the ‘Shane three part sentence’, as well as a bevy of dangling participles. Prior to the mauling, I remained ignorant of the entire concept. My stories were written on instinctive talent rather than refined skill.

So that leaves me with my first stories being very powerful, word-wise (Hear No Evil, Victims of Circumstance, Midnight on the Jetty), my middle batch being of varying quality – some very good, some average, and my latest ones evolving into something different. Maybe not as primal as the first few, but certainly containing a sophistication I thought forgotten.

I have to add that my slush reading at Shadowed Realms has certainly helped my writing. This of course doesn’t mean I’m poaching anything. In fact, I’m so paranoid of that fact, if I come up with a concept similar to a submission I’ve read, I immediately turf the idea. But the time spent amid some high quality slush has given me perception, and a bit of hindsight. I have a better idea of what works, and definitely of what doesn’t work. I must state that dialogue statements have been a bone of contention with Ange and I. I maintained strict ways to write dialogue, but she has convinced me to change. The trial for this was The Hanged Girl, and the results were (in my opinion) spectacularly successful.

I must state (and I’m sure the following writers won’t mind), that reading stories by fellow KSPer Lee Battersby has helped with this. There is one particular story he wrote which is expressed both elegantly and macabrely, entirely through speech, without once referring to the typical ‘he said’ formula. Similarly, I was impressed by Stephen Dedman’s Shadowed Realms story, Hard Lessons. The level of backstory conveyed in just 666 (or thereabouts) words is remarkable.

I’m still finding it hard to shake the three part sentence, and I know Harbinger is absolutely riddled with them, as it is with sentences starting with ‘ing’ verbs (but hey, these work very well for action scenes). I’ve copped a few rejections lately – today with Plan Ni from Borderlands, Practical Joke yesterday, along with The Savage Redemption of Gaia, Autobahn Dance, and the Dread Seasons Quartet – but it’s the good news on my more recent stuff that spurs me on. I can’t wait for Clarion South. All those stories waiting to be unleashed. With any luck (and a dose of determination), I’ll have In the Heart of Midnight filled to capacity with dark, sophisticated, genuinely creepy stories.

For now, I’m working on a little something called Singing in Prague. It’s not creepy, but is a little… hmm not sure yet. I guess I’ll have to wait and see how it turns out.

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