Psst! Got a VIP date for you: Tuesday, June 4, 2013. Mark it on your calendar! Why? Because that’s the day this sweet little nugget will be available…
Technically, it’s called a Penguin Special. You could call it a short story. Perhaps a novelette. That all depends. But on what, I’m not sure. According to that popular fount of somewhat reliable information known as Wikipedia (where one time I saw Forest Gump listed as a running back under Notable People from the University of Alabama) short stories tend to defy exacting definitions. Or something like that. And while I’m always a fan of open-ended parameters due to the fact that excessive guidelines tank my creativity and remind me of why I hate math, I would still like to have something to call my little story. A class, if you will. I was delighted to discover a genre called “nonsense” and knew immediately that was where I needed to be but upon closer inspection, found that category was more of the “Hey Diddle Diddle” variety. Then I stumbled upon the “epic” genre and while that’s a word I’m fond of overusing, this particular nugget isn’t poetic in the traditional sense of the word nor is it a million fahfillion lines long.
So I moved onto the second most unreliable source of information available to people who are too lazy to go to the library and pick up something that’s actually been verified by sources with credibility: Yahoo! Answers. The question: How many words are in a short story? Here’s the first six-year-old suggestion, courtesy of stephen h:
under 50,000 is considered a novella
under 30,000 is a short story
under 2000 or 1500 words is normally a magazine sized short story.
But if you are writing and aiming at a certain word count you are going to write crap.
let the story dictate the length.
To that I say, “What if I’m aiming to write crap? Then what do I do?” So I kept reading and found that drjekylandmrhyde put a short story at 3,000 words or less (when you’re talking literary magazines) and he’s been a member since July 2006, has 7187 points, and is a Level 5 (what that means, I don’t know). And he’s given 1557 answers. So he must be right, right? Then Bonny came in and changed that number to 5000 but she’s only a Level 4 (again, whatever that means) but her picture looked like she knew what she was talking about so I took that into consideration. Then I scrolled down and found my personal favorite authority on the matter: Nickiandangel who, despite their Level 2 (oh, who even cares what that means) status, supplied what I thought was the very best answer: Not as many as a long one… soz couldn’t resist it. I thought that was pretty effin’ funny. Then I noticed that I was on Yahoo! Answers for UK & Ireland. Does that matter? Who knows?
So I found what I thought was a US page and after reading a couple of long and extraordinarily dull responses, discovered this gem of wisdom from a question mark (as in “?”): It depends. Just make sure that makes sense and has meaning, plot, emotion, etc. Just b/c you want to make it short doesn’t mean that it’s rushed. I’d say around 2k-5k. Whew! Glad I read that. I do feel that I should disclose that this ? is a Level 1 with only 218 measly points. I just couldn’t resist noting an answer from a question mark.
So anyway, I kept piddling, I mean surfing, no browsing -wait, I was researching! yeah, that’s what I was doing when I found where the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America lays it out like this:
Classification Word count
Novel over 40,000 words
Novella 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novelette 7,500 to 17,500 words
Short story under 7,500 words
Now that sounds pretty good to me but I’m not going for a Nebula (although I would love to have an award with a bomb-ass name like that) so I just decided to invented my own genre.
Hence the induction of the affectionately & appropriately named…. drum roll please….
Li’L Mad Fat Shorty
If a novel is a sweet potato pie, then you could call my Li’L Mad Fat Shorty a nice hearty slice of that goodness.
Like to hear it? Here it go:
(Why, yes. That is a Calhoun Tubbs reference. Click here or here to refresh your memory and if you didn’t watch In Living Color, then below you will find your sample selection)
Ace Jones: Mad Fat Adventures in Therapy
I stand up, knees shaking and nerves shot to hell. The Honorable Benjamin Wren comes in and takes his place behind the giant wooden desk or podium or bench or whatever it’s called. Without looking up, he instructs us all to be seated . I sit down on top of my purse and, in trying to discreetly pull it out from under my right ass-cheek, I drop my file folder and watch in horror as my Very Important and Embarrassing Papers fan out on the floor. The Honorable Benjamin Wren calls someone’s name. Thank God it’s not mine. I scramble to get the papers back together. Arrest report, statement of probable cause, court appointment information sheet. Judge Wren calls another name and then another. Everyone who’s been called so far has an attorney. Great.
I glance at the jury box where three men are seated. They’re all wearing orange. One has his hands cuffed behind him and a fancy array of neck tattoos. Wonderful.
“Graciela Jones,” the judge says. When I stand up, I feel like I might pass out. Heart thumping and cheeks burning, I put one foot in front of the other until I’m standing at the double-wide podium where I saw everyone before me go.
“Do you have counsel, Ms. Jones?”
“No, sir.” My mind spins visions of the worst, horrid thoughts of what my life will be like behind bars. I can’t stop thinking about Shawshank Redemption. Ninety days. That’s what one of my Very Important and Embarrassing Papers indicated was the maximum penalty should I be found guilty of my alleged crimes against civilization.
This sweet tater nugget will available June 4 for the low price of $1.99! That’s cheaper than a slice of pie at Cracker Barrel!
Thank you and have a great weekend!