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Andrew's horror novella, 'The Bathtub', is now available.

Monday, 31 May 2010

In Praise of the Shorter Form

No, this isn’t a piece about my wife who is five foot zero and wonderful!

I’ve always enjoyed writing and reading novels, with the opportunities for sub-plots and characterisation that their length allows.  I’m not so keen on short stories, but I do appreciate the skill in writing something short and sharp that sticks in the reader’s mind.

I’ve always thought of novellas as a compromise between shorts and novels, and like a lot of compromises they often bring out the weaknesses of both rather than the strengths of either.  But I’m beginning to come around to the idea of novellas.  So, what’s changed my mind?

Well, having ‘The Shoot’ published has helped, although as this started off as a part of ‘The Wood’ that got separated I still tend to think of it in the context of being part of Wood than a stand-alone piece.

It’s being part of the Eternal Press family, though, that has really got me reading.  EP published a lot of novellas, and of course I’ve had the chance to taste several pretty good ones.  Seeing some of the techniques used by other writers has been more helpful than reading any number of ‘how to’ guides, and I’ve learned that it is possible to get everything in a novella that you see in a novel; it just has to be done differently.

While anyone wanting to see how to do a novella well could probably pick up an EP release at random, two of their books show off aspects of the shorter form perfectly.

Gianna Bruno’sHot Chocolate Kiss’ is a masterpiece of characterisation.  Keela Branford is a great character anyway: likeable, and both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time.  I was really impressed with the way Gianna managed to achieve such a well-rounded heroine in only ten thousand words – many full length novels struggle to deepen a character this well.

Frenzy’ is the other EP release I’ll recommend.  This is a gritty story about eight men who find themselves stranded on a lifeboat in shark-infested seas.  Carole Johnstone has put together a cast of complex characters and the story is about the people themselves as much as their predicament.  Carole weaves both strands together seamlessly in only 28,000 words, but doesn’t leave any loose ends – all this without making the work seem rushed.

So, after reading other Eternal Press authors, I’ve changed my mind about novellas, and maybe I’ll have another one published one day.