Lessons from the Story Match, #1

I need to develop a body of work: I learned this early on. Almost every short story Dean Wesley Smith wrote in the first week was connected to one of his writing worlds.

  • The June 30 warm-up story titled The Library of Atlantis is linked to his Poker Boy world.
  • The July 1 story, The Case of the Dead Lady Blues, was quickly identified as being a Pilgrim Hugh story.
  • The July 2 story, The Bad Patch of Human Interest, and the July 6 story, A Matter for a Future Year, he discovered to be part of his Seeders universe.
  • The July 3 story, They Were Divided by Cold Debt, he found to be part of his Bryant Street subdivision setting.
  • The July 4 story, The Problem of Grapevine Springs, ended up being part of his time-travel western setting Thunder Mountain.
  • The July 5 story, Best Eaten on a Slow Tuesday, seems to have been a stand-alone.

So, I quickly realised that being able to draw on a universe, even a partially developed one was useful when writing under pressure. Instead of having to feel my way through each story, and learn the details of the setting as I went, I would be able to focus more on telling the tale. I would also have existing tales to draw on and weave into each new story, if I so chose, or characters that could be given stories of their own, if they did not already have one, unexplained patches of history that could be expanded and so forth. And each setting has its own following of readers, who feel comfortable walking on that world, or who would like to visit it again and explore it some more, and that is important, too. Ergo, I need to develop a body of work, a set of universes and worlds that I can play in and that my readers can enjoy visiting, and that could surprise me by claiming short stories belonged there.

  1. It only helps a little bit to have the setting in your head, when the setting is in the formative stages of its development;
  2. It is easier to write when you have the setting in your head AND a character that you have worked with before.


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