In my last post I wrote I had the idea to write short stories about incidents related to in my novel. The incidents themselves aren’t relevant to the plot, but they add a little extra depth to the world in which the story takes place.
I figured that writing short stories about these events might serve to add even more depth to the world, especially for those who read the shorts before they read the novel. Makes sense, right? I think it’s a great idea, I just need to decide what events are interesting enough that they’ll stand on their own as short stories¹.
Now, what if what actually happened isn’t what’s related in the novel?
Below is an example of a reference to an incident that’s a candidate for a short story:
What’s with all the little houses? Enar still hadn’t seen any burrows since he arrived. Hasse would probably know. He’d ask him in a bit. The old man seemed busy regaling Jorg with the latest gossip, and it wasn’t like it was very urgent anyway. He leaned back against the apples and listened in as the driver babbled on.
“…and did you hear they had a bear up in Rastebo this winter? Mauled some sheep and the locals couldn’t get rid of it. Had to call in help from all the hillsides they did. Biggest bear he ever saw, old Lennart said, beat him up good it did too.”
“Oh, no, I didn’t hear that,” said Jorg. “Did they manage to drive it off in the end?”
“Oh, yes they, did, but not before it killed young Torkel from Kvarn.” Hasse fell silent for a moment and then cleared his throat. “See, lad up and went after it on the lone. Wanted to impress his lass he did, little Emma – Herman’s daughter you know, Kvarn too – and wasn’t that a fine affair. A scandal if ever there was one.”
“Oh?” Jorg nodded.
“Aye, for sure.” Hasse turned his head and spat over the side of the cart. “Came spring, little Emma’s already got herself betrothed to young Egon – that’s Torkel’s younger brother.” He snorted and shook his head. “No shame those people. Got their eyes set on Herman’s burrow they do, setting their daughter on his last sons like that. It’s a scandal I tell you. No shame.”
This is from the second chapter of the novel. None of the characters Hasse mentions is mentioned again in the novel. I could cut the entire thing out and it would have absolutely no impact on the plot. I’d like to keep it in though, as it adds some depth to the world. It makes the world just a little bit more real.
On top of that, if there was a short story about how the bear killed Torkel, or how the villagers drove it away, the reader could remember that and nod knowingly as they read this passage. I really think that would be kind of neat.
What I’m pondering at the moment is what it’d be like if the short story about the event tells a different story to the one Hasse is telling.
- What if it was really Egon who killed Torkel and then blamed the bear?
- What if Emma already like Torkel enough and he really didn’t need to impress her? On top of that she might really dislike Egon and only be forced to marry him for family/tradition reasons?
- What if Emma and Torkel went out to kill the bear together (because Emma’s secretly an expert bear hunter)
- What if there already was a perfectly acceptable burrow for Emma and Torkel to live in – without them having to take over Herman’s burrow.
- What if it was really Hasse who convinced Torkel that Emma would be really impressed if he killed the bear.
As you see, there are a lot of ways in which Hasse could get things wrong – or just lie – about what really happened. If I go this way, and tell a different story, I divide this part of my novel into two different reading experiences. Those readers who have read the short story, will view Hasse and his talking in one way, and those who haven’t read the short, will view him in another way.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
I really don’t know, but I don’t think I have much to lose by giving it a go. If it works, I think it’ll work really well.
This track gets picked as it has one of the most inspiring titles ever. There’s something about the phrase Flying on the wings of steam that just gets my imagination racing all over the place.
¹ I firmly believe that any event is as interesting as the character experiencing it, thinks it is. So it’s not really about what events I think are interesting, but about what characters I’m interested in. If I’m interested in, and passionate about, the character, I can make any event they experience an interesting one.
Okay, that’s saying a lot, so let’s keep it to any event noteworthy enough to have been mentioned in the novel. I don’t mind it if I sound a bit pretentious, but there have to be some limits to the hubris.