Thursday, January 21, 2010


No, this entry isn't nearly as retro or provocative as the title. This isn't the Royal Teens. Not even their lyrics, technically. You'll live.

Today, kids, we are talkin' 'bout the Art of the Short Story, which is a talent of which I am not a master. (Although they say that sometimes about my mastery of the Art of the Novel, too. Idiots.)

Short stories require a lot of subtlety, which many people -- starting with me -- don't exactly equate with your hero. (Uh, that would be me, for those of you too shy to ask.) Still, I get asked to write them on occasion. Usually for little or no money, which I'm okay with, because -- you know what? -- I was able to report $0 (and .00 cents) writing income on my tax forms for 2009. And I'm considered to be a famous well-known... uh... published author.

Moving on -- because self-deprecation is fun, until it becomes depressing -- a few weeks ago I was asked to write a 5,000 word short story, and I did it. Mostly, I did it last weekend, but I did it.

Then I read it again last night.

The horror!

Not only did my 5,000 word short run 8,000 words, but it also lacked every trace of subtlety. Basically, I wrote 8,000 words for, oh, Married With Children, without the humor. But with "Seven."

The fact is that short stories are tough for a lot of novelists. In a novel, you have 100,000 words to develop a character and plot; flesh him or her out, find light and darkness, make the story work. Doing that in 5% of the space isn't necessarily beyond my talents, but it's a different art form. I managed to work it -- in "Happy Hour at the Cafe Jones" in Fool for Love (link for educational purposes only; buy it at your GLBT indie bookseller!) and Strange Bedfellows (my only foray into erotica, if you care, and you might have to buy it from Amazon) -- but this story eluded me.

Thank God I read it a few days later and saved myself from too much embarrassment. The "Rob Byrnes" writing brand isn't exactly something that most PEN voters think of when they wake up in the morning, but it still means something to me. So... back to the computer this weekend. I know what I have to fix, and I think I can fix it.

Oh, even if it sucks I am going to make you buy the book when it comes out and pretend this little conversation never happened.

Just thought you'd like to know...