April 10, 2010

Are One-Shots Easier to Write than Multi-Chaps? (An original GreenPuma rant)

(guest-posted by GreenPuma)
I am prepared to argue that the answer is no. Yet I have seen several popular blogs and podcasts teach that a multi-chap fic attempt is too ambitious for a novice. In my view, one-shots pose a serious problem for those unaccustomed to writing: it is harder to be good in fewer words.

I hate to even suggest that Stephenie Meyer is a good author (she is not, though she did come up with a great plot); but since you all know the reference, I'll point to it just the same. It is much harder to craft a pithy, memorable paragraph like this:
About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was a vampire. Second, there was a part of him-and I didn’t know how potent that part might be-that thirsted for my blood. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.
...than it is to write an entire volume full of drivel ::cough*BreakingDawn*cough::

Here is another problem with using one-shots as a learning ground for writing: they don't require the author to
build craft skills across the dimensions of story. Some of the most well-awarded/reviewed one-shots thrive on plot alone, assuming the reader already knows character and setting (this happens to be true since we're reading fanfic and we all remember canon). But for an aspiring author trying to learn how to write, it makes sense to work with more.

At absolute least, anyone who wants to learn to write should include one's own take on character, plot, and scene. If this can't be achieved in a one-shot, a short multi-chap is always an option (I know some pretty popular multi-chapter fics are unimaginably long; though underutilized, a short multi-chapter is perfectly fine). As writing skills grow, authors can work more with integrating more complex themes, symbols, the transformational character arc and all kinds of other literary goodies. And, yes, I do believe these more complex elements require a multi :)

Finally, let's not discount style. Many beautiful writers are simply not concise. Just as many great one-shot writers never write multi-chaps because their strengths are in one-shots.

Perhaps the best advice to new authors who might fall into the common trap of over-ambition is to start out with a straightforward PLOT, one that can be described in a single sentence. And, contrary to popular belief, in order to be great, a fic doesn't need crazy conflicts and plot twist after plot twist. The simplest plots are quite often the best (e.g., Alphabet Weekends by the-glory-days, Hiding in Plain Sight by Limona, Living Backwards by CiaoBella27, Girl with a Red Umbrella by Spanglemaker9 and justaskalice)

What say you, authors? Tell me, am I right or am I crazy?


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