Congratulations, it’s a short story


People have preconceptions, fast beliefs that may not be of much importance, but are all the more difficult to change. I know because I have many, had more, am always curiously surprised when one of them falls. I like to think of myself as open-minded, but then I’m a stubborn s-o-b who clings desperately to things I feel rather than know.

Literature is a special place within this paradox, both in reading and writing. As a German, I’m predestined to be a snob about it. We have, after all, the history to prove that we’re literary geniuses. And thus, we read with distinction. Or so, our teachers taught us from first grade on. Or maybe not taught us, but strongly implied it, and forced LITERATURE down our throats.

If I write LITERATURE, it’s implied that it’s high brow. You know, Goethe, Schiller, a little bit of all the Manns, and possibly Büchner. Know your Faust, everything else is Trivialliteratur (trivial literature, low brow). And it’s so very hard to get over these beliefs, these implied distinctions.

But some of them were never even implied to me, some I simply made up. One, that poetry is easy as pie and therefore nothing worth. Two, that the novel is the highest form of writing, but only because plays are for enacting not reading. Three, that short stories are not worth the effort it takes to open a book for them. As I said, I’m a snob.

The Matter of a Secret KissI’m also a writer, or like to think of myself as one. Or maybe I’m simply a scribbler. Be that as it may, I always aimed for the most rewarding medium, the novel. To me, most rewarding. Yes, I wrote poetry, but only to fill time, only if I couldn’t write anything else at the time. I did it in class, I did it on the bus, I did it sometimes while walking through my hometown in the evening (and that’s a beautiful thing to do), making it up in my mind, not even writing it down. Poetry to go.

Short stories, tho… no. Didn’t have time for that. And what for? Can’t publish just one short story (and, no, I hadn’t even heard of anthologies). Short stories were things they might make us write as homework, a punishment in itself. Write about your holidays, if you didn’t go on holiday, make something up. Punishment, indeed. And how do you learn to change such a belief if your education system fails you so thoroughly?

I don’t know. There was this one short story I read and I just loved. The Waltz by Dorothy Parker. I guess I went from there. But I still wouldn’t write short stories, still thought they were a waste of my time.

Well, somehow I did change. Maybe seeing that you can publish one short story in an anthology with other stories by other authors (this concept remains strange in my family, I don’t think even my mother who’s an avid reader understands why such books exist), better authors, better stories than yours. I find the concept compelling, thrilling even. And so, I wrote another short story and maybe it will appear in an anthology, maybe not. The important thing is that I change my view of things, whether these views are German (due to an unimaginitive and old-fashioned education system), or simply working class (because I haven’t been brought up in an academic household), or maybe just stubborn ideas of someone who so wanted to appear educated.

I don’t know. This post is not quite what I imagined it to be. I merely wanted to tell you how great it is to write a short story, to disappear in a small slice of imagination, to know more than the story could contain, to be god to that little piece of the world you just put on paper. Instead I wax (almost) poetic. I guess I’m just astounded by the ways my views change. But really, short stories are awesome!


Writing Vampire

I do believe that all writers (and maybe some other creative folk) who read Twilight and didn’t like it (like me) have sat down one lazy Sunday afternoon and thought about how they would do it differently. Not the original tale, or not necessarily, but an idea along those lines – a vampire novel. Or a novel with a human protagonist who meets a vampire and a werewolf and even, possibly, other supernatural creatures. Maybe it’s a romance, maybe it’s a murder mystery, or a vampire hunter novel, who knows.

I did that one day (I don’t really remember if it was a Sunday but in my mind sundays are the best days for doing something like that – possibly in autumn) and the thing that immediately sprang to mind was: don’t make your human main character enter an affair with the vampire, a crush would be okay, but go no further. If you have read Twilight you may remember how Meyer went on and on about how cold Edward was, like a marble pillar (or some such phallic metaphors she used). And I thought: urgh. Now that’s romantic – lying next to someone cold and hard. And that was the main reason I would rather have Bella be with Jacob (no, I’m not on Team Jacob, that would have taken more involvement than I was willing to put into the novel[s], but body-wise he was the better choice – never mind that they were both big douchecanoes).

I am aware that Stoker imagined Dracula as both vampire and werewolf – which is just another variation of the man as beast-theme, one where both or all manifestations are beasts – but I must confess I like the tale of a feud between the two races better. I especially like the tale of Underworld and must confess that the third movie (I haven’t watched the fourth yet) is my favorite. One reason is certainly Rhona Mitra, another is that I seem to be more invested in the Lycan story than the Vampyre lore. Much like with Batman, I now confess freely that I don’t get the attraction of a vampire, not entirely. I kinda fell for the female vampire of Frght Night 2, but I’m sure that had more to do with Jaime Murray.

But that was the premise I kind of set myself. Now, this is a difficult premise. I’m a writer of romance, though I guess it’s more by default than by conscious choice, and writing a supernatural story that has a vampire in it, even if it’s not a Mary Sue-like figure like Edward Cullen, and most certainly not a vegan vampire, and not have her be the love interest… difficult, to say the least.

I still do have that idea on my back-burner, it might even be a trilogy, but this idea is not the reason I was thinking about vampires. I was trying to write a short story from the I-perspective of a vampire, a Valentine’s story for a submission. And I got stuck yesterday because I couldn’t overcome my own cynicism that poured into the character. The question is: how do you make a stereotype that is as typecast as romantic hero as the vampire think about love? How can any creature which is as naturally cast as perfect lover not be disillusioned by that role? We are all aware of the sexual power of the bite (and I guess that’s acutally more sensual than being mauled by a werewolf), the allure of darkness, add a foreign accent (just remember Antonio Banderas in Interview with a Vampire) and even I start to swoon. But those are tropes – overdone, outdated maybe, and I do feel that a vampire, a creature of our time and cultural upbringing would be aware of them.

This is where I’m stuck – a Valentine’s vampire story. I feel like I need to go thinking out of the box for this one, give myself a little more time, make a writing exercise of it maybe. Just so I know how to write vampire when I go writing that novel that is not Twilight.