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Old 15th January 2012, 06:07 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Another Odd Question. . .

Has anyone ever started out a novel or series of novels with a short story? One that is set in their world, gives background on their world, pertains to their world, may even pertain in someway to their overall plot and story of the main book or series but is separate. Sort of like the Scratch the squirrel shorts before the Ice Age movies.

Would something like this even be accepted or has it even been done before? Particularly in the fantasy genre.
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Old 15th January 2012, 06:38 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

Well, I haven't started writing my fantasy novel yet (I'm still in the planning stages, coming up with the mythology and the history of the world and whatnot), but when I do begin to write it I will have the history and mythology written out in short story form, a string of them even, giving me something to reference and refer back to.
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Old 15th January 2012, 06:56 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

Enders Game began as a short story.

Mine aren't published but I've often had longer stories suggested by short stories. The Christmas 75 word challenge has given me a story idea and this 300 word challenge has given me an idea for a sit-com script. My contemporary fantasy which is now two first draft novels and a third idea came from a short story about a trip to Blackpool. Whilst writing novels I often write short stories about the world or the demise of the character to give the story perspective and help me get to know the characters better. Sometimes I like to pluck them out of their world and have them go shopping or roller skating or something. A chick-lit story has given me an urban fantasy story about a fallen angel who works as a carer stealing from old people.
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Old 15th January 2012, 07:41 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

I co-wrote and drew a comic which featured one humungus story arc over several issues with a two/four page vignette per issue with a world-connected but otherwise stand-alone story. None of the central characters, other than those who were unavoidable (given the nature of the society we depicted), was featured.

In another comic I did solo I continued the idea and had a short story told by one of the central characters. It was usually a sort of Future Shocks.
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Old 15th January 2012, 08:27 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

Some prologues have so little immediate relevance to the main text that they almost qualify as a short story in their own right -- the mermaid one at the start of "Prospero's Children" by Jan Siegel is the best I can think of -- so I don't think it's too great a jump.

But I'm not sure it's a good idea to include a chunk of unnecessary material at the start of a book, when you want to concentrate on getting people involved with the main story. Prologues are contentious -- some people are put off by them -- and self-contained shorts are going to be even more so, in my opinion.
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Old 15th January 2012, 08:32 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

IIRC, Julian May's "Saga of the Exiles" tetralogy began as a short story.

I have an unpublished short story which I fear will remain unpublished as-is, precisely because it's really a novel in embryo rather than a fully-fledged piece in its own right. When I've finished this current trilogy I'm going to go back to that world and mine the story for new material.
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Old 15th January 2012, 09:48 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

In SF, there's several that I can think of: Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes, Raft, by Stephen Baxter and Blood Music, by Greg Bear are all extensions of shorts. Probably the biggest is, of course, the classic, multi-book, Dragonriders of Pern saga, by Anne (and now Todd) McCaffrey, with at least twenty-five novels all springing from one 1967 short novella "Weyr Search".
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Old 15th January 2012, 10:21 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

Er, aren't people confusing "started out with" with "started out as"? The OP meant the former (I assume from the Ice Age reference)
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Old 15th January 2012, 11:18 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

I own a book called Lost Souls by Poppy Z Brite whose first chapter was reworked from a short story and still functions as such within the book (unfortunately the rest of the book has nothing to say except that being a goth is really deep, man, and isn't much cop). A lot of books have a prologue that can function as a short story in itself: Tad Williams and George Martin have used this before. Of course, you can kill off all the characters in the prologue/story, so it can be a useful lead in as well as something self-contained. Many fantasy novels being (often boringly) with a legend from the setting which only later becomes of relevance to the plot. I think the short story should be in some way related to the main plot, but I can't see why it shouldn't come from a tangent.

I've been trying to write a fantasy novel of late, most of which is confined to one city. However one of the characters has a back-story explaining his adventures in a desert, which I thought would make a good short story since it doesn't directly pertain to the rest of the book.

So I can't see why you can't do this. Call the short story the prologue, or release it separately, and it would work fine.
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Old 15th January 2012, 11:28 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

Sorry, I misread the OP

Many novellists undoubtedly write short stories to accompany their novel series.

It has been suggested to me that, to facilitate some movement of material into the Real World, I might extract incidents from my novels and re-package them as short stories for publication in magazines etc. A plausible idea I thought and still think.
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Old 15th January 2012, 11:52 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

If you mean that the author wrote a short story, then wrote a novel(s) afterwards in a kind of subsequent series, then one that springs immediately to mind is Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files. He started with, what he himself called 'a novice effort', A Restoration of Faith, which was a short story, featuring Dresden and Murphy. He then took the two main characters and wrote them into novels, but still produces short stories.

I'm sure there are plenty of other authors who have started novels and series off in the same way.
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Old 15th January 2012, 12:36 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

mmm, not sure on this one.

I think short story and novel writing inhabit different places in the writing universe. They may intersect on some levels but a short has a different tempo, pace and impact - because of the word constraint. I do think it's quite a different form and rarely do I see a brilliant short being transformed into a brilliant novel and vice versa. Here I'm assuming the you mean that the short is expanded out so the original and augmented. Obviously if inspiration, themes or characters are taken from a short and then placed in a full bloodied novel, that's different.

To take an example, as mentioned above, the novel Blood Music, is essentially a bit of a car wreck (in my opinion), the first half is essentially the short, then Greg Bear welds a second half that really dissipates the essence of the original ideas and it feels like the novel just slowly deflates to the end.

I like my short stories that I read to be self-contained, sharp and standalone. Unfortunately that means that it is quite easy to spot shorts that have been extracted from novels - they just don't quite work (at least for me!)
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Old 15th January 2012, 03:22 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

Quote:
Originally Posted by HareBrain View Post
Er, aren't people confusing "started out with" with "started out as"? The OP meant the former (I assume from the Ice Age reference)
I think the OP meant separate short stories and was just using Ice Age as a general example.

I would definitely consider releasing related short stories, or even novellas, in between books in order to maintain fan interest. Nowadays, epublishing makes that sort of thing very easy to do (providing your main book contract allows that kind of thing, if you're trade-published - at the very least, it's a courtesy to discuss it with your editor).
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Old 15th January 2012, 03:42 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

The first of Asimov's Foundation books consists of short stories. You could say the second novel in the series is really the first, and that it was preceded by a set of short stories.

My own (unpublished) stories tend to create spin-offs. Interesting side characters require their own short stories, which expand into novel ideas, which spawn yet more characters...
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Old 15th January 2012, 04:17 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Another Odd Question. . .

I am taking the meaning as "you open the book, the first you read is a short story, then it moves on to the novel proper"

Not too many examples of that (plenty of examples of "a short story was written first and the world developed into a novel later though.)

I think it sounds like a nice idea, a little different, kind of refreshing. If you have that in mind, I would say go for it!
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