Earlier this week, I started writing a short story entitled “The Girl Who Flew on a Whale” as part of my WISB Podcast project. The story, as my friend Adam Callaway remarked, is a whimsical fantasy for young readers (chapbook level). I’ve always wanted to write a story like this. They’re fun to read and the current venture has been fun to write. But one of the issues I’ve had is the tug in my mind to turn this short story into a much larger project.
“The Girl Who Flew on a Whale” is about a young girl who lives in a semi-Victorian-era town on the continent of Traea (many centuries after the events of The World in the Satin Bag). Her mother wants to prune her for the aristocracy, while the little girl, affectionately called the Dreamer, wants nothing to do with that world — rather, as her name implies, she dreams of the legends and myths of her world, wondering and wishing some of them are true. The conflict is one that I’m sure has been seen many times before, but it is also a conflict that is close to my heart. I don’t have children, but know that when I have them, I’ll do everything I can to foster their creativity.
Because children who have their dreams crushed are children who lose the very thing that makes the world grow: creativity and innovation. We need dreamers today more than we ever did before. “The Girl Who Flew on a Whale” is partly about that conflict, but I’ve set it in a fantasy world (with plenty of whimsy) to get the message across via an adventure.
And that’s where the issues arise. The story is begging me to expand the narrative I have already started. It’s begging me to bring in swashbuckling pirates and strange creatures and wonderful magic and all sorts of silly and beautiful things. Many of these I’ll put into the story anyway, but the grand adventure my mind is trying to imagine won’t fit into a short story or novelette. I’m having to keep those things at bay while I write a more manageable tale (and one that I can actually read in a single sitting for the podcasted version I promised everyone).
Something I’ve been thinking of doing is providing the short version and then expanding it into a proper chapbook. I know many writers have done things like this (writing novel versions of shorts they wrote a long time ago). But is it as common today as it was in the old days of SF/F? I can’t think of many contemporary examples.
I bring all of this up because I’m curious about some things:
- How do you go about keeping a story under control? Or do you throw your hands up and give it what it wants?
- Do novel versions of short stories work for readers? Do you enjoy reading those kinds of stories?