It’s that time of the month

I was recently asked to join in a very interesting publishing project for next year — 31 writers writing short stories. Each writer writes a story set the same day each month for a year. Mine is the 5th — so I am to write 12 stories set on January 5, 2014 and February 5, 2014 and so on. My characters will not appear in other writers’ stories. The January issue will be 31 stories, each taking place on one day of the month and written in the present tense. The February issue will revisit these characters a month later.

It’s a terrific concept; how it plays out will depend, of course, on what the writers do with the assignment.

It’s set me to thinking about what the hell I am doing.

  1. I have to have a character/characters that I want to write twelve stories about.
  2. Each story has to be self-contained but also work together as a daisy-chain of a dozen.
  3. Each story has to be interesting.
  4. Each story must relate thematically to the other stories without being repetitive overtime.
  5. Each story must have its own reason for existing.

So, I find myself wondering exactly how to go about writing a story. Usually when I have a story to write, I do it because I am driven by an idea. Usually, that idea is from incident or character. But these 12 stories together make for an entirely different project.

I am driven to write one big story which has 12 different snapshots over time. Trying to make a story where we see a window into the characters life on the fifth of each month as he tries to achieve X by going through ABCD and on to L, seems a little bit confusing and difficult….and challenging to say the least.

It is a good time to think about what the story is, however. I consider myself more of a longform writer – novel and screenplay. I also tend to write flash fiction. These are more traditional short stories, of the handful of pages variety.

It makes the most sense to write these as one piece with 12 scenes. Of course, I have to figure out how to make the window of each scene naturally occur on the fifth of each month. It made it clear to me that the heart of fiction is character, not incident — but good stories, to me, are incident-driven. So it’s a fine balancing act — something I already knew, but something worth being reminded of nevertheless.

My first submission is now in, and I await a breath of inspiration or a looming headline to get me started on month two.

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