“But it’s not a whole book.”
You know how many times I’ve heard that? Too many. You know how many times I’ve stood my ground and proved the naysayers wrong? Every damn time.
Listen, I’ll happily admit that there’s something quite wonderful about holding a full-length novel in your hands. The heft, the impressive span of the spine, the ragged edge of the pages as you flip through. Your heart leaping as you see Chapter Fifty, Chapter Sixty-Two, Chapter Seventy, the promise of a great read implicit in the size alone.
But not every story needs that heft. Not every character wants to invest themselves that fully. Some are happy to give you just a glimpse of their experience. A look at an event. An event. Just one. The one that changed everything for them forever.
That’s where short fiction comes in.
After I finished my first book Martuk … The Holy I started planning Martuk … The Holy: Proseuche. With Martuk’s bags packed and Amazon arriving any moment to take him out into the big, bad world, focusing on the sequel seemed to me the next logical step.
So I started writing. And then I stopped. Started again. Stopped again. There was something nagging me. Something not quite right. Something unfinished, perhaps.
And it couldn’t be Martuk’s story because it was still being told. And with a book scheduled after that — the third –, the tale would continue.
That’s when it hit me: it wasn’t his story at all. That wasn’t what was nagging me, my fingers hovering over the keyboard while I watched the cursor blinking on an empty page.
It was their story. Those who had befriended Martuk, took him from his home, walked with him, challenged him and imprisoned him and, yes, even killed him. That’s the story that needed telling.
The Wounded King. The Elder. The Magician. The Old Crone. Those Priests in Red and Gold. Even his Mother. They refused to let me go. Insisted I give them a voice. They had stories to tell. They still wanted to speak.
The blinded, stumbling King wanted us to see how he became that bleeding husk of shredded flesh. How his life had trapped him, his days spent as a living corpse weeping red surrounded by an opulence he never wanted, his ears forever haunted by those bones in the stones, the knowledge that Those Beyond the Veil waited, just out of reach.
And The Elder, a man noted for his venality in Martuk, was desperate to show us the why of who he was. Wanted to take us by the hand and lead us into the how of what he experienced, the ramifications of what he endured feeding his actions. Not hatred or malice, but anger, surrender, and disappointment. Needed us to understand that he was as trapped in his fate as Martuk, a prisoner laying on a blood drenched altar under an ocean of stars, was trapped in his.
Could I do that in a full-length novel? Yes. Is that what their stories needed? No.
Alas, short fiction. Ergo, The Martuk Series.
But it couldn’t be like a full-length novel. I needed to limit my words, focusing more on the action and less on the lush prose. Train the reader’s eye to the blade that cuts and not on how the metal shines in the light of the nearby flame. Guide them into the actions of The Queen and The Seer and the ash-covered immortal Shamisé, trusting that what they do will help inform the reader. Tell the reader who they are, their back stories implicit in their actions.
Regardless, this writing needed to be quick. Abrupt. Shocking and swift. It needed to move. Constantly. Forward motion always. These stories wouldn’t linger in the shadows, waiting, biding their time, hoping. They’d rush forward like a great wave and shatter the door to fill the room with their rage, their pain, their wounds.
They would assault us with their stories.
And that’s what the Series is and will continue to be as long as I write it, the possibilities endless as we meet yet more people in Proseuche and then the third book, Shayateen, and then, perhaps, in books after that.
So, the next time someone says “But it’s not a whole book,” I’m going to respond
“You’re right. It’s much, much more.”