Thursday, 23 January 2014
Writing My First Short Story
I've always enjoyed reading short stories, and so when Headline asked me to write one as an e-book, I jumped at the chance. With the end result - Destructive Thoughts - released tomorrow (for just 99p! - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Destructive-Thoughts-A-Short-Story-ebook/dp/B00HRXQ106/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1390484274&sr=8-2&keywords=jt+brannan), I thought I would share some of the process with you.
Many years ago, whilst I was at university studying Interdisciplinary Human Studies (see http://www.bradford.ac.uk/ssis/courses-and-study/undergraduate/interdisciplinary-human-studies/ for an explanation!), I remember that the book I enjoyed the most was Philosophy and Science Fiction ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophy-Science-Fiction-Michael-Phillips/dp/0879752483/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1390482378&sr=8-2&keywords=philosophy+and+science+fiction), edited by Michael Phillips.
With stories by legends such as Isaac Asimov, Stanislaw Lem, Robert Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, the book was a compendium of the very best in science fiction short stories. With their focus on future societies and technologies, with all the moral and ethical issues that can result from such changes to the world as we know it, such stories were fascinating and thought-provoking, as well as exciting.
When I was coming up with the premise of my own short story, I had these very much in my mind, which is why Destructive Thoughts is set in the future, unlike my novels. The world it depicts is that of the Federation of New American States, which constantly monitors the thoughts of its citizens, projecting 'unauthorized' thoughts onto large screens which are found all over the federation's major cities. 'Thought criminals' are immediately punished by the surrounding citizens, and America has in this way become self-policing. Moreover, the citizens themselves become self-policing, no longer able to give free rein to their own thoughts, emotions and impulses. It is the surveillance state taken to the nth degree, and whether or not such a system would affect our minds enough to condition how we actually think is open to conjecture. That's one of the great things about short stories; ideas can be introduced and focused on more readily than they can in a full-length novel.
My favourite short stories also have one more thing in common - a twist at the end! I think one of the benefits of the short story structure is how it lends itself to twist endings, and it's one of the things that can make a story stick in your mind long after you've finished reading.
Destructive Thoughts is my first short story and is out tomorrow (24th January). Give it a try, and please let me know what you think!