Guest blog on the concept behind "Saturday Schooled" and "Stairs of Sand," short stories by Eileen Granfors
I write short stories as a break from the novel-in-progress (I always have a novel in progress). Sometimes, when I am having trouble with a scene in the novel, I try it again as a short story. Most of my short stories fall into the flash fiction category, under 1000 words.
My short story, “Saturday Schooled,” is featured in my new anthology called Flash Warden and Other Short Stories (due out this summer). “Saturday Schooled” was highlighted on this blog a while back.
The story arose from a writing prompt to journal about a moment when we observed something that made us feel guilty or unworthy. I had been trying to write a scene in my novel, Stairs of Sand (also out this summer), with this very emotion, and so I began writing the scene from something I had witnessed on the way to class one day in Westwood. I saw a homeless man conducting an insane rant with his possessions on the sidewalk near my classroom.
I added in the two Japanese tourists and the violence that takes place to make the narrator’s role more culpable since she should have helped. She had planned to help them with directions to show American hospitality, but when she is most needed, she flees the scene.
Later, I rewrote the scene for Stairs of Sand, letting the protagonist and her friend act with more passion and less fear.
I love the scene both ways, as a short short story and as a part of the development of the character in the novel. In the short form, the reader is left wondering why the narrator, who seems confident and outgoing, shrinks into herself, allowing craven fear to control her life.
In the novel, the scene helps the reader see another side to Zoozle, someone with many interior demons. It also develops her friendship arc with her friend, Chloris, and divulges some previously unknown information about another friend, Chris.
Although the scene is exciting in the novel, it is more powerful in the short story where it underlines the narrator’s fallibility and leaves the reader angry with the narrator’s obvious flaws, even though many readers would react in the same way as the narrator, others might have stepped up and stepped in.
I love writing flash fiction told by flawed narrators. Short stories condense time and make me as a writer conscious of the power of every word. The tense, lean construction of the short story, especially flash fiction, is my writing workout to gain confidence in writing muscular prose.