Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Of Schedules and Short Stories

A few days ago I was feeling frustrated that I was falling behind on my list of tasks to set up Gargoyle Girl Productions (for example, it still has no website). Having radiation EVERY DAY this month has put a crimp into my days. But I reminded myself that one of the reasons I wanted to publish my books myself was for this very reason: so I could be on my own schedule regardless of what health issues I might be facing. But… it still felt frustrating!

Trying to follow my own advice, I threw my schedule out the window. The next morning, I woke up with freedom. And I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. For the last couple of months, there's been a short story idea bouncing around in my head. I didn't think I had time to write it.

This week, I'm writing that story.

I knew this idea should be written as a short story, rather than a novel, because the idea centered around a locked room mystery. In "locked room mysteries," also called "impossible crime stories," the whole idea is based around the twist that makes it possible for a seemingly impossible crime to have actually occurred—such as a man found dead inside a windowless room locked from the inside with no possible way for anyone to have escaped. Locked room mysteries provide a great twist, and in a short story, a twist is key.

I've loved these types of puzzle plots since I was a kid. They're so fun in part because they're fair play mysteries, where the reader has all the clues they need. They're also fun because you know you're in for a satisfying resolution at the end.

There are novels that feature locked room mysteries—John Dickson Carr, the master of locked room mysteries, wrote many of them—but in a short story the focus can be on creating everything that leads up to that "ah ha!" payoff moment. When I have an idea for a locked room twist, the pieces fall into place for me as a short story.

Time to get back to writing that twist.


  1. Good for you, Gigi, for seeing the opportunity to write short when you have it. Everything to its proper time. Here's to the freedom of throwing away restraints (like schedules and "should"s).

    After I had written 2/3 of a mystery novel many years ago when I was home with young children, life intervened, and I found myself still with young children but also with a full-time job. I couldn't keep that novel and all its characters and plot going in my head and write it down in the scraps of time I had available. But I COULD write short stories, so I did. I'm happy that both those boys are now well launched into their adult lives and, while I still have the full-time job, now I can write novels again.

  2. Thanks for sharing that experience, Edith. I used to think I couldn't write short stories, but I was so pleased when they finally clicked for me. This will be the fourth one I've written. It's tough to fit writing into life sometimes, but it's worth it to make the effort.


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