A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I wrote up the following for the Oni Press message board, in response to a question sparked by my interview with Ian Shaugnessy. It seemed worth posting here, since I already had it ready to go:

Jamie's crash course in the Novella:

Length is a determining factor, but not the only determining factor. In fact, the first novella, The Decameron, runs over 600 pages in my edition. Length often comes into play simply because the other determining factors in the study of novellas are things that can be found elsewhere. It ends up being a rather elusive form, nebulous and difficult to define.

Some of the less definable elements:
1. A sense of the fantastic
2. A vehicle for philosophical discussion (i.e. Faulkner's "The Bear")
3. A story that is purely symbolic (Hemingway's The Old Man & The Sea)
4. Writing itself as a matter of introspection (Philip Roth's The Ghost Writer)

Elements of structure and technique:
1. A compressed focus
a. details limited to the scene at hand
b. time, characters, and setting are isolated from the world outside the plot.
2. Repetition of events/themes for impact
3. The appearance of being grounded in reality while really being in fantasty, often relating back to the first section of this outline with stories as fables, or as a journey into the mind (Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness).

Boccaccio, Hemingway, and Conrad are the most strongly referenced in I Was Someone Dead, but in addition to those listed above, when I was originally working on this project (which in college was connected to a larger paper, the outline of which I keep at hand), I also really liked Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and Melville's Billy Budd.

Quite some time ago, on the original Oni board, I advocated that comics get more in line with literary terms. It was after reading James Sturm's The Golem's Mighty Swing, which I felt was more like a novella than a graphic novel. Scott Morse also has called Visitations a graphic novella, which I think is spot on.

I should also mention that one of the people who was most influential on me as far as looking at the multi-tiered structure of stories was Dr. Charles May, author of Fiction's Many Worlds. It's a marvelous critical anthology with some great stories and analysis. The "new" price is scary, but you can buy used ones pretty cheap. He's mentioned on the dedication page for I Was Someone Dead.

I used to have a T-shirt that said "Novella Fella" on the front. It was given to me by some friends from my teenage years that were making fun of my high-minded goals. It was, for me, the final sign that we had grown apart. But, I wore it all the time...only backwards, because on the back they had put "Mr. Asshole."

Current Sountrack: Morrissey, Live at Earls Court; John Wesley Harding, Why We Fight

golightly@confessions123.com * The Website

[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich

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