Before I come to this “Story-line” for writers, I want to purposefully digress slightly and talk about an excellent TV series on Netflix called “Black Mirror”. It is relevant (honest!).
Black Mirror is a series without a unifying story. It is in effect a set of stand alone stories. Each story is different and could be put out as-is without any of the others. Each story stands alone on its own merits.
The stories on Black Mirror are in effect a set of “short stories”. They are all encased in a science fiction/high technology wrapper. If you watch a random episode of Black Mirror you will not know what the story line will be. But you will know you will be getting a Science Fiction/High Technology story.
If you compared Black Mirror to a book I would say it had many similarities to the great written science fiction compendiums of short stories from writers like John Wyndham (e.g. Consider Her Ways and Others)
Which brings me to the “Story-line for Writers”
Calamity brings out both the best and the worst in humanity. The events, tragedies and victories of this current time of trial with COVID19 will feature strongly in peoples minds for many years to come.
When this terrible virus has run its course, people will invariably look back. They will want to know more. But they will not just want to know the facts. They will also want to read the stories and tales of this time too.
Basically put, they will want to read stories of love, duty, heroism, horror and redemption about this period. Just as we today crave stories based around other times of calamity like World War Two or the Great Depression.
Obviously there will be many full length novels written around these times. But what I would like to explore as an opportunity for writers of all genres is a new possibility for short stories. Stories packaged into anthologies, like “Black Mirror” or Wyndham’s “Consider Her Ways”.
“But short stories do not sell! Nobody wants them!” I hear you say.
Yes. That is true. But only up to a point. If the enclosed short stories follow a theme (like “Black Mirror” or “Consider her Ways”) then all bets are off.
In my humble opinion the problem with most short story anthologies is that the public cannot identify the theme easily. On initial inspection the anthology is just a bunch of unrelated fiction. People are predisposed to a theme. Somebody buying a short story anthology looking for love stories may well be put off if they think story number two may be a gruesome crime thriller.
So here is my suggestion to all my friends in the #writerscommunity. Lets theme it up! And for good measure let us tackle the new and unexplored theme about the events of today.
Let us all start writing short stories about these times we are living in. The genre is irrelevant. If you have the imagination then you could wrap just about any genre from romance through to science fiction around todays events. I would suggest anything from 3000 to 10000 words would be fine per story.
Then, with writer colleagues (or even on your own) build a collection and publish the collection with a suitable title.
BUT (here’s the crucial factor) make the sub-title:
“Tales from the the Lockdown”
These five words clearly and unambiguously identify the content theme.
Maybe there is room to qualify it further and so explore the niche deeper.
Love stories: Tales from the Lockdown
Science Fiction tales from the Lockdown
Murder Suspense stories from the Lockdown
You get the idea. Alternatively use another theming sub-title of you’re choice but make it clear! The sub-title must directly identify the collection (or for that matter single larger story) for its niche time-line story matter.
Anyone and everyone can do this. I believe that in months/years to come there will be very many people who wish to read “Tales from the Lockdown” style fiction. Stories from this time we are now living through will eventually become a sub-genre in its own right
A readily identifiable theme will lead readers on from one collection to another. Just as on Netflix people navigate from one series of Black Mirror to another. So we can all do each other a favour.
It perhaps feels a little early at the moment to be thinking of how to write stories around the current calamity. But nothing feels more real or visceral than an immediate and urgent story written as events are evolving.
Then when the crisis is over we can all get these short stories from a myriad of authors and a myriad of small publishers out there and into the market.
Most authors have written short stories. The problem has always been getting them to market.
Maybe by giving better clues to the reader about what is inside will give us today an advantage that others in the past lacked.
Anyway that’s my tuppence worth. If you have an opinion I’d love to hear it. Either here or on Twitter.
Next post its back to the practicalities of self publishing!