I am an independent author, so I like to seek out and read other independent authors. Also, because I write short stories, novelettes and novellas, I am drawn to the same when it comes to reading choices.
As I have been doing this lately, I have noticed something, and I may not necessarily be correct, but I am going to put it out there. It seems that many of the short stories I am reading, are not full stories unto themselves, but are simply snapshots from what either is, or should be, a larger work. When I am done, I feel that what I read was good, but also incomplete. I am not talking about Hemingway's theory of omission, in which known parts are left out to add depth to the story, I am talking about the feeling of having been told only a portion of a story because the author only had a portion to tell. I still leave a good review because I, like so many of us, understand that the author has poured their heart and souls into the tale. Above all I respect that, and will not deride another's story simply because I may not 100% get the author's vision.
From my point of view, when I write, everything from flash fiction to novels, my goal is to tell a complete story. Of course, I want the reader "wanting more." But what I want them wanting more of are my other stories. My goal for a particular story is that the reader should feel that she or he has read an entire, intact story --- not walked in somewhere in the middle, not understanding what is going on, or worse, being left in the middle. I don't want them to be simply hanging on, not sure what the story was supposed to be about and worse, not understanding the motivations of the characters.
I will include an example of the flash fiction story “A Father.” It clocks in at just over 500 words. It is told in an almost poetic rhythm, however, within those confines, my goal was to craft a complete story, giving the reader a beginning, middle and end, even if not necessarily in that order. In this particular story, we enter in the middle of the main character’s arc. Yet, within the story, I give the history of his conflict, develop him, his emotions and motivations as they relate to this one story. Hopefully imparting upon the reader those feelings, why he feels a certain way, and why he chooses to resolve the situation in the manner he does.
I give insight into the secondary character. How she plays into the main character’s story, and why her decisions drive him to make his. Even though another character is mentioned in but a few sentences, the reader is given a bit of insight into him as well and his place in the other two character's lives. The goal is to provide the reader a self-contained, intact narrative.
Of course, we are not developing to the same degree and depth of a 60,000++ word novel, but that doesn't mean we should not endeavor to give as complete a story as we can for both our characters, and our readers.
Am I wrong?
Here is the flash fiction piece, “A Father.” I hope you find that it met my goals, and is a good and complete story.
by Joe Leonardi ©2018
It is so close to the date, yet, your desire will not be denied. We make love, unbridled is our passion. To unimagined climax, we bring each other.
Behind closed lids, your beautiful eyes are now hidden. I lay next to you. My hand, upon the outline of our child. Eager to see the world, he presses against your belly. I kiss your cheek. My love, I proclaim. I am with my family.
We are not asleep long.
A contraction wakes you.
You feel a pop, then a trickle.
It is time. We rush to your house. When we are near, you phone your sister. Within the hour, she will be there.
I am like a kid on Christmas morning. I have never felt such joy. I have never been so happy. A life, one created by our love, will soon be here.
My breathing is rapid.
Our son is coming.
My heart races.
We near your home. Your contractions continue. Less than ten minutes after the last, arrives the next.
Your face turns sad. As you place the next call, you tell me you love me. My excitation dims. At his work, your husband’s phone rings.
Of paternity, he is unaware. I am the father. However, he remains, your husband. My joy is gone, in its place, despair.
It is he, who will witness the birth of my son.
It is he, who will hold him when our son breathes his first.
It is he, who will sit next to you, to share the advent of the life which we created.
I stop in front of your house. There is little time. You aren’t sure when next we will speak. I reassure you--all is fine. Before darting from the car, you tell me you love me and kiss me. As I pull away, the headlights of your sister’s car greet me.
To the hospital, I hurry. I observe you arrive, close behind, so does he. Blissfully blind to the truth, in he rushes.
I leave. For hours, I drive. I am not by your side. I am not there to hold your hand. I am not there to tell you to push. I am not there to wipe the sweat from your brow or tears from your cheek.
I don’t know how you are doing. I don’t know if you have yet given birth. I don’t know if our son has seen his first sight.
What I do know--
It is he, who our son will cry out for in the night.
It is he, who our son will consider his father.
It is he, who my son will call daddy.
Unexpected and unplanned, but not unwelcomed, was his conception. You attempted to leave, but each time you tried, unforeseen events prevented you. Tears fill my eyes.
I will never know my son!
It is that truth, which leads me to the revolver.
It is that truth, I mutter as I press the barrel to my head.
It is that truth, I repeat over and over, as I cock the hammer.
It is that truth, the last words I speak, before the explosion echoes.