Monday, 3 October 2011

In Defence Of Short Stories #16: Colin Barnes

A quick bit about me - I've been interviewed by the talentless, no hope, self-published hack horror writer James Everington over at Sea Minor, the website of the wonderful Nigel Bird. If you want to read such illuminating exchanges as:

Then check it out here... 

Okay, today's guest blogger is Colin Barnes, and it's his birthday so you have to be nice to him in the comments, okay? (At least, until tomorrow you do... ) Colin is an author of dark fiction of the gritty horror/thriller type - he recently released a a crime anthology titled 'Killing my Boss' that he co-authored with best selling author Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff. Now he's working on a anthology of horror stories in his 'City of Hell Chronicles' setting, which looks like it's got some very interesting and exciting writers contributing to it... 
Colin has chosen to write on one of the all time great short story writers, Ray Bradbury, who I'm sure needs no introduction to any of my erudite readers. 

Take it away Colin...

The Bradbury Approach

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. " (R.Bradbury)

I could end the post right there and it would sum up Bradbury's approach to writing in the tiniest of nutshells. This is a man that exudes vitality, wonderment and sheer joy in his writing; even some of his darker horror themed stories exude these qualities in abundance.

Ray Douglas Bradbury is one of our greatest ever writers, and one of the most prolific short story writers. If you are looking for a good primer in what a short story is, pick up any one of his many collections and therein you'll find the formula to short story perfection. His stories are witty, often with insightful social commentary; disturbing, with their look at humanity and the deep rooted existentialist questions that he poses, and profound in their look at what it means to be human.

Not just a science-fiction writer, Bradbury writes across a wide range of genres, but with one common theme: wonder. Everyone of his stories echoes that earlier quote: each one is dripping with literary drunkenness, an excess of expression and meaning. His stories are more than just a mirror to the world, they hit you right between the eyes and make you question yourself, your environment, the direction we as a species are taking, and myriad more consequences.

In a 54 minute speech in 2001, Ray regales the audience of the 'Sixth Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea' with a speech on writing that is quite simply the finest 54 minutes anyone could spend if they want to learn what it is to be a writer. He drips passion and honest from every pore. I challenge you to watch this alone and not bring a tear to your eye through the sheer brilliance and love this man has for literature. In the video he challenges would-be writers: If you want to be a writer, don't start with a novel. Instead, write a short story every week for a year. At the end you'll have 52 stories, and some of them will be good. 

It's a great approach for new (and experienced) writers. There's something cathartic about turning a story around within a week. You get to develop an idea, write it and polish it. Every week you'll have a finished piece of work, and it's true, you WILL have some good ones, even ones that are publishable. And maybe even ones that will change someone's life like Bradbury's stories have done.

On the subject of ‘In Defense’ of short stories, personally, I don’t feel they need defending as such; they just need to be brought more into the consciousness of readers. Novels are the vogue at the moment, but it wasn’t always like that. Short stories in the form of comics, serialisations, and anthologies used to be the big sellers, but as publishers dwindled, so did those kinds of products. Now, all the bucks go into developing novels. However, this is where eBooks are giving short stories a return to former glory. You can pick up single shorts or even collection for around 99c(p) and sample a range of authors. This is how Bradbury got started.

He approached publishers with a whole collection of short stories that he wrote. Luckily for him they had a unifying theme, and the publisher wasn’t so short sighted to dismiss him out of hand for having the temerity to turn up at their offices with a handful of papers. Instead, they read the stories and decided to publish them in a kind of novel format, but they were still short stories. This collection was titled ‘Martian Chronicles’ and by approaching various situations from a range of directions over his collection of short stories, they formed a whole similar to that of a novel.

So, without short stories, Ray Bradbury probably wouldn’t have had his breakthrough title and been as big an influence on the world of literature that he is today. 

Take Ray’s spirit, and try it for yourself – for both the writer and reader, indulge in short stories, you won’t be sorry, in fact I guarantee you will be enthused and rekindle a love for this perfect literary form.

As I started this post with a Bradbury quote, I shall close it with one: 

“Jump, and you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall. ” (R. Bradbury). 

1 comment:

J.C. Martin said...

Love that Ray Bradbury quote. Found you via the Coffin Hop -- can't wait for that to kick off! :)


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