Sunday, 29 May 2011

In Defence Of Short Stories #3: Todd Russell

Mental Shrillness by Todd Russell

Slightly late, but worth waiting for - it's the third guest blog In Defence Of Short Stories...

I had meant to do at least a modicum of research on each blog author, but because I've been away I know next to nothing about today's guest Todd Russell. So he'll have to stand or fall based purely on his contribution... which fortunately is great; it certainly makes me want to check out Todd's short stories. How about you?

Take it away Todd...

And So We Bleed by Todd Russell

Ever had a paper cut that smarts for a long time? Strange that they don't bleed proportionately to the pain. I've had head injuries that hurt less and never seem to stop bleeding. 

But they do. 

Just like a novel runs out of its blood supply, so does the novella, novelette, short story, flash fiction and every other format. Us writer-types, and some readers, classify the type of a story by the number of words. We classify the amount of literary bleeding by volume. 

The tiny bleeders, the superficial cuts, might be something as minuscule as 140 character Twitter fiction. Even though I've been writing over 30 years now, I recently wrote my first piece of Twitter fiction -- and loved the process. Also tackled my first ever drabble, which is a piece of fiction that bleeds not at 99 or 101 words but exactly 100 words. Another good time. 

How much blood is in the human body? A 160 pound male, about my weight if I do the Subway diet, has about five quarts of blood. Now the next time you haul two gallons of milk to the checkout line remember that you are carrying more milk by volume than the person next to you has in equivalent blood. 

I saw James Everington was running a series of guest blog posts called In Defense of Short Stories; on Mr. Everington's quest I'm donating a bit of blood to my friend, Mr. Short Story, even though he doesn't need any. He is the kind of cut that bleeds fast and then stops. He has the potential staying power of a paper cut. He doesn't need to bleed all night long to make his point. He isn't greedy when it comes to hogging blood supply. 

Or time. 

Mr. Short Story won't rob much of our time, arguably the most valuable thing any of us have on this fine earth. Yes, your wound will heal fast and if he was in a good mood, Mr. Short Story will stay with you. 

There is an art and beauty to brevity. Writers who have read Professor Strunk and E.B White in The Elements of Style (and if you haven't, Dear Fellow Writer, put it in your TBR list) can relate to the expression: "Omit needless words!" 

I took less than 500 words to write this guest post, does that make it less worthy than a post with 5,000 or more important than one with 50? And (gasp) what if I'd have taken 50,000 to tell you that it's OK sometimes to bleed a little. 

The nice thing about digital writing is you don't get paper cuts as much but that shouldn't stop writers from telling the story while the blood is flowing. 

My cut has stopped bleeding. When will my passion for writing short stories stop? Only when my heart stops pumping blood. Bleed on!

Elastoplast 40 Fabric Assorted 2589851Todd Russell started literary bleeding at age eight. Mental Shrillness (UK | US), a collection of six twist ending bloody horror stories, is his first book.  An Amazon reviewer writes: “I was appalled … the stories are horrifying, disturbing and nauseating at times. I recommend Mental Shrillness to adult readers to challenge themselves on how strange a story they can handle.” You can follow Todd’s work at


Dan Holloway said...

For me the form that causes the most pain of all is the novella - it's that mix of focusing on a single idea yet sustaining it to its conclusion that I've never managed to achieve

Alain Gomez said...

I like to think of novellas as novels with a single plot line.

Short stories are a single idea.

James Everington said...

Unfortunately I've read entire novels without even a single idea, Alain!

Alain Gomez said...

Lol. Well, that is a totally separate issue.