Back when I was an English major, it seemed like I was always writing essays and short stories for one class or another. When I graduated, I still felt the urge to write but always stuck with short stories. The idea of writing a full-length novel was overwhelming. How could I possibly create a story that would last hundreds of pages? How could I plan a complex plot that involved a multitude of characters, keeping track of personalities, actions, and plot points and making sure to tie everything up at the end?
Once I stopped making excuses and managed to write a full-length book, I realized there were benefits to a longer work, particularly flexibility. With a short story, I need to introduce the characters early in the plot, and that cast of characters is generally limited, with some of my stories involving only one or two people. My Blossom Valley mysteries, on the other hand, contain significantly more people, from coworkers and family members of the main character to suspects and victims.
Each of these characters needs to be fleshed out, given a backstory, and included in multiple scenes, which would not be possible in a short story. But with a lengthy novel, I can delve into each character as little or as much as I want.
Along the same lines, a longer work means added details about setting. I can immerse readers into the Blossom Valley setting as I weave descriptions of the various businesses and places around town into each chapter. By the end of the book, I want people to feel like they’ve visited a real place. This is much tougher to pull off when the story is limited to several thousand words, sometimes even less.
That isn’t to say that writing a book is an excuse to be lazy. I can’t spend ten pages describing the living room of a character’s home or paragraph after paragraph about how much someone is enjoying the sunny weather. But with a short story, every word needs to be deliberate. There’s no room for added verbiage. A book doesn’t require the same tightness. It’s okay to let an extra word slip in every now and again.
Would I write a short story again? Absolutely. The question is whether or not I even remember how.