You can’t write a novel all at once, any more than you can swallow a whale in one gulp. You do have to break it up into smaller chunks. But those smaller chunks aren’t good old familiar short stories. Novels aren’t built out of short stories. They are built out of scenes.
—Orson Scott Card, September 1980
Transitioning series characters from short story to novel or vice-versa presents challenges for fiction writers. It requires the combination of imagination and keeping facts straight.
Unless you are time-travelling with your stories or are deliberating putting them at an earlier or later age, time-lines can be tricky. Where in your characters’ story timeline do you want the short stories to appear? Or if the short stories came first, then your novel needs to be kept in the time-line. That can affect your characters development. For example, you don’t want one character to be divorced in the short story and newly married to the same person in a novel obviously set at a later date. You need to be consistent and realistic. If you mess up, your readers will find it.
My story situation has the timeline and consistency problem in spades (and I don’t mean the spade that digs the graves for bodies dead from murder). My short story collection Beyond the Tripping Point was published first. In it are four linked stories featuring fraternal twin PIs Dana Bowman and Bast Overture, Dana’s son David and a few other series’ characters. It is David I have to be concerned with because these four stories happened after the novel Beyond Blood, which I call the pre-quel novel. The four stories occurred in 1999 and the novel in the summer of 1998.
David is psychologically mute in Beyond the Tripping Point. In Beyond Blood, the reader finds out why. So, obviously he is talking at least for the first part of Beyond Blood.
Then there are the other characters, such as the ones I kill off in Beyond Blood. Obviously they didn’t appear in Beyond the Tripping Point.
Characters are supposed to grow and develop, so in a prequel novel, the characters have to be a few steps behind in that area. For example, in Beyond Blood, Dana could not be at the point where she is dealing with a mute David – that comes in BTTP. Things happen to characters and that’s what changes them one way or the other. But the event must happen before the change – something to keep in mind when transitioning from novel to short story or vice-versa.
To make the situation more complicated with me, I had actually written an earlier version of the pre-quel novel before those four linked short stories. So, when writing the stories, I had to keep the novel’s content in mind. When I returned to rewriting the novel for the publisher (after BTTP was published) I then had to make sure I was consistent – even though I was expanding the plot, making it more complicated. One of my base lines was why David became psychologically mute and when he is mute.
There is also the obvious difference in short stories and novels – length. The short story has to be more succinct because you do not have novel-length. You can’t have multiple plots in a short story or multiple points of view. How much about characters do you include?
Next week’s blog post will deal with some of those issues.
Meantime, you can read more about the characters and their stories in Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012). Click on the book at the top and it takes you to Sharon A. Crawford’s profile – including book reviews – at http://www.amazon.com. The book is available there in print and Kindle. For Kobo e-book go to http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/beyond-the-tripping-point or go to any bricks and mortar store and order in a print copy. Spread the word.
More info on Sharon A.’s upcoming gigs, workshops, guest blog posts, etc. at http://www.samcraw.com/Articles/BeyondtheTrippingPoint.html
Sharon A. Crawford’s prequel novel Beyond Blood, featuring the fraternal twins will be published fall 2014 by Blue Denim Press. Stay tuned.
Sharon A. Crawford