short fiction

I’m writing a short story that features a guy I see in the park who has a dog. Most of the feedback has been like, “Yo, can you put some conflict up in this piece?”–as if conflict were as easy to add as red pepper flakes on a slice of pizza. Every time I see this guy, the part of me that loves to be awkward wants to tell him about the story and maybe ask for a lock of his beard. The part of me that has more social decency just wants to make small talk to find out if he has any drama in his life. 

This morning, for the first time since I started the story, I saw him outside of the park. He and his dog were on the corner of my street. It seemed that they had walked east for a cup of coffee. Maybe he’s writing a short story about a Dazbog barista, because I know there’s better coffee on his side of Cheesman. Or he could have a nascent Cheesman East romance going on. I have no idea what he was doing this morning. I know this guy so vaguely that I’m not sure I would recognize him without his dog.

Just A Moment

I tend to blog more when I’m starting a new writing project, as a way to feel like I’m doing something even when I’m not working. For me, blogging is a way to try out phrases and ideas. Even if I’m not writing fiction, at least I’m at my desk, staring at a screen, thinking about how words go together. Blogging is the writing equivalent of 30 minutes on the elliptical. 

I’ve recently become obsessed with the idea that the best short stories are about a moment when something is true, or a truth about a character is revealed. So right now, I have a moment, but I’m trying to figure out who would be there and why. It’s confusing and difficult, and leads to a lot of moments of staring out the window and procrastination cleaning. 

The more I think about this Moment idea, the more I think the short form is more honest than the novel. The length of the novel implies that you’re getting the whole story. But there’s no “whole story.” Things continue even after that whale hunt that changed everything. A short story doesn’t make a promise to tell the whole story. A short story is just a true moment in a person’s larger life narrative. 

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I’ve also been thinking about how pleasant this fall has been in Denver. It snowed in the first week of October, but then, for whatever reason, the weather has stayed in the 50s and 60s. Fall and spring in the West aren’t as fragrant and lovely as they are on the East Coast, where things are more verdant and fast-paced. Most of the trees turn yellow here, but every once in a while, there’s a tree that goes orange or red. Last month, I was a foodie for fall, and I took pictures of any tree that reminded me that fall in Denver was still worth having. You know me, always capturing the small moments.  

If You Love Short Fiction, Read Maile Meloy

The more immediate fear, as they drove up the winding road to the top of the pass, was that Chase would miss one of the invisible turns and they would go over the invisible edge and plummet to the valley below. The thick curtain of snow parted only a few feet in front of them, and Chase drove slowly, for him, into that curtain, following the disappearing tracks around each curve. The insides of the windows iced, and when she scraped the glass her own frozen breath showered her. 

The short fiction of Maile Meloy may have had some influence on my decision to move West.  The quote above is from “Garrison Junction,” which appears in her collection, Half in Love.  Both Ways Is The Only Way I Want It is pretty great too.