How do you know when a short story is a short story, or possesses the potential to be extended into a novel?
While I was on holiday (just got back, very sunny and lovely with lots of reading), I had an idea for a short story. I sat in the shade of a beach umbrella by the hotel pool for a couple of hours, and ended up with around 1.5k of a first draft. I liked its tone: familial drama, with a little humour. My boyfriend said it reminded him a little bit of Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother. I definitely can’t complain about that!
“I know the ending’s quite weak, but –”
“Oh, I thought you hadn’t finished it yet. Definitely need a better ending.”
“But it’s a short story? I thought it was going to be something bigger.”
“Really? Oh. Well, I suppose it could be. Let me have a think about it.”
And over the rest of that day, that short story with a weak ending developed into around thirty possible chapters. There are a number of logistical problems at the moment, and if the plan were to remain as it stands, the reader would definitely have to make some definite leaps of faith. But those issues will resolve themselves as I think about it more. But, I do have some reservations.
Firstly, I liked the lighthearted tone (but dealing with quite a big issue) of the initial story (or first chapter, if we’re looking at it as a potential novel), and there was a strong theme running through it. These would be difficult to sustain throughout a novel, but I think a novel would be better if I could manage that. So this reservation might be just laziness talking. I.e. “I could just polish this into a story within a week or so, or I could slave over it for months and still not be happy. Now, which one do I want?” Hmmmm.
And secondly, how do you even know if an idea has the… well, the substance to survive transformation from a tiny kernel of a story into a huge monolith of a book?