Binding books of short stories is remarkably difficult. Short stories need to present a conflict, show that something’s at stake, make us care about the characters, and resolve it. And this has to happen in under twenty pages.
A novel is easier to write, although you still want the same precision and need for each word you do in a short story. But when writing back story in a novel, you have more space to do what you want; you can take more liberties than you can when you only have the space for pure action. Therefore, determining what to include in a short story from a character’s past is especially tricky.
Images of memories can help to convey this. We remember in snatches, flickers. Think of the last time you stayed up late. An image of your friend’s face flashes before you, then the story unfolds in more images: you’re sitting at that table in candlelight; you’re outside smoking trying to tell what’s the smoke and what’s your breath; the clouds unfurled like ribbon in the high sky; and because you know the story, it coheres and takes shape through more and more specific memories.
Memories can help flesh out a character. Before going to book binding services, editing your character’s memories could be the final step.
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