Thursday, May 28, 2009

Short Story Posers

I forgot to mention that I do not like novel excerpts posing as short stories. I’ve come across a few and regardless of the writing; they tend to make me angry.

There is no background so the characters and situations make little to no impression and furthermore, I don’t know where the story is going. This inability to gain momentum or even have a basis of understanding for static situations makes it very difficult to connect with the story. The few novel excerpts that I’ve come across in collections and anthologies were well written but ultimately uninteresting as it is impossible to tell what the reader was supposed to take away from the excerpt.

Obviously an excerpt isn’t supposed to stand on its own and make complete sense… because it’s an excerpt. If the goal is to generate enough interest to make me want to read the book then why wasn’t I given the beginning of the book, i.e. the prologue or first chapter? This is nothing more than what many a literary agent has complained about regarding submissions from potential clients.

“Please send a query letter, synopsis and the first fifty pages.” The latter of these stipulations only had to be spelled out in recent times to the best of my understanding as some new writers feel their best efforts are pages ninety-seven to one hundred and three, and wanting to put their best foot forward that is the material they submit. Agents rightfully complain that if the beginning isn’t of a certain quality then no one will stick around to page ninety-seven and that when starting at page ninety-seven they have no clue what’s going on making it near impossible to gauge interest.

With this in mind why is it okay for an editor to publish a novel excerpt as a short story? Is it not a disservice to the reader and the author? To those who feel that the short story and the novel are completely different literary entities, how does publication of a novel excerpt as a short story make you feel?

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