I enjoy novellas.
I enjoy the plot urgency; intimate length; sometimes lack of chapters; optional titles and art; and the excitement of completing a story without facing the effort of a novel.
When it comes to story crafting, I like to think. A LOT. And think, and think some more, and continue to think until the setting is alive and thriving in my imagination and the characters are walking, talking, breathing, and whatever else may be pertinent to the time and place.
It's what I do. And then I think some more. I think about the characters: their feelings, wants, needs, sexuality, hobbies, lifestyles, hopes, fears, habits, and most importantly motives. Through these exercises I discover the story.
(It's kind of like squeezing oranges with a juicer.)
Through the characters I begin to see the conflict. Why the conflict exists. Its origin, and why the conflict continues to exist. The conflict may be as simple as a lover's quarrel over a misplaced shared treasure. The conflict may be as difficult as a son faced with watching his mother degenerate into a zombie.
I think about the characters as friends, family, neighbors, as random encounters at Costco or at Disneyland, at a red light, waiting in line on the way to work for a cup of coffee at the local coffee house, because, after all, a story without people is just sugarless gum. The first rush is pregnant with curiosity, then after a few chews the flavor wanes, replaced with boredom and disappointment: Sugarless gum.
Who cares about sugarless gum? Yuck! I certainly don't.
I want my readers to care about the characters I have created, to cheer them on, to wonder what's in store in the resolution.
In the first novella I'm crafting, the conflict is based on a true experience of life and death. Its sudden and imminent confirmation, the specter of death, the celebration of life, the horrors of pain. I am still unpacking the emotions. My kids will never truly experience their grandma. She was a powerful woman. Spicy, hot-headed, opinionated Italian. Flawed like all of us, yet a wonderful spirit who cared so deeply and passionately about her friends and family that she was an unwavering giant.
I have been unpacking the emotions for so long now that I know I may never finish unpacking them. Something will always remind me of her and remind me of the simple fact that my kids will not have a chance to grow up with her. Never paint Easter eggs with her. Never rush into her house on Christmas morning in their pajamas. Never hear her sing Happy Birthday. In these experiences, in these memories I found a story, and it's almost finished. She gave so much to so many people. In those final months she was surrounded by the people how cared about her most. The men in her life? Nowhere in sight.