Guest post: Author Frank Westworth on the joys of short stories.

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming author of quick thriller short stories Frank Westworth to the blog, to share with readers the joys of writing short stories and why he enjoys them as much as he does. It's a fascinating piece and provides a real insight into the creation of short stories, so I really hope you enjoy reading this! Special thanks to Rowena from Murder, Mayhem & More, and to Frank Westworth for getting in touch and appearing on Becca's Books today. It's a real pleasure to have you here!

I would also like to mention here that Frank Westworth's latest quick thriller is published today, Fifth Columnist, and below you can find the relevant links if you fancied grabbing yourself a copy or simply finding out what this author is all about. Congratulations on the release of your latest quick thriller, Frank!

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Guest Post
Exclusive to Becca's Books, author Frank Westworth reveals the joys of shorts. Yes, you did read that right!

Shorts are fun. Short stories, that is. Not abbreviated trousers. That would be silly. Although...

I've always been mildly surprised that more authors don't write short stories. They don't take long - my latest quick thriller, Fifth Columnist, took maybe three afternoons while on holiday - and they don't demand piles of research, endless re-reading to ensure that the plot holds together, that the geography and logistics work, and they don't demand that a writer spends an icy age doing their best to keep the characters consistent. Best of all, though, a short story or two allows gaps to be filled, colour to be added, background details to be fleshed out - in short, they allow an author to complete the bits left out of a full novel manuscript for reasons of length. Not, please understand, because they're neither entertaining nor relevant.

In the fiction I prefer to read - and therefore prefer to write - individual novels supply a snapshot into a short period of time. If you prefer huge, sprawling epics covering several generations of families, their genealogies, complex lists of endless interlocking characters, none of whom gets the space to reveal who, what or why they're relevant... then give up now. Personally, I like to read snappy stories with a point, with enough detail to make that point, and with masses of entertainment and shared insights. And I'm always delighted to find a book which starts and ends in the middle. All the characters have a life before we meet them in the novel, and hopefully some are left standing at the end of it to continue with their lives - whether we get to read about them in further novels or not.

Short stories provide a great and groovy opportunity to tell tales about those characters before, during and indeed after the novels themselves. Not least because some characters become much more interesting than the author originally intended. There’s a guy in my own three full-length novels who appears only as tiny snapshots. He’s called Chimp and he tends bar in a nightclub. There’s a little physical description – he’s wiry, quiet and keeps a shotgun behind his bar. Who is he? How did he get there? What’s his relationship with the owner of the bar? How would the bar’s owner – a noted paranoid – trust someone with the keys to his club? Those are the questions … I have no idea of the answers yet, but will start finding out sometime soon.

The short stories which accompany my novels are all prequels – they take place before the story in the first novel; A Last Act Of Charity. In the latest, Fifth Columnist, I decided to take the attention away from the usual central character – some bloke – and focus instead on a strong female lead. To add a little humour, which The Reader claims to enjoy, I gave the woman a man’s name: Jack, short for Jackie, short for Jacqueline. To add a little more humour, I didn’t give the male lead a name at all. After all, it’s obvious to anyone who’s read others in the series who that guy is. Isn’t it?

Strong female leads are always great – both to read and to write. In my own way of working, I like to model all the characters on an actor, so in this case decided upon the always-excellent Gillian Anderson – not as Dana Scully in the X-Files but as DSI Stella Gibson in The Fall, a gritty detective series set in Northern Ireland. That’s a brilliant character, and seemed doubly appropriate as a couple of my other short stories take place in Northern Ireland.

Those characters who also appear in the novels turn up in the short stories as much younger versions of themselves. The shorts start a whole decade before the first novel, and trundle gently through ten years or so of action-packed lives – I model those lives on the lives of soldiers; long periods of inactivity surrounding brief times of dangerous action. So there’s a great and entirely entertaining opportunity to imagine how those characters behaved during simpler times, doing what active guys in their twenties do; lots more running, shouting, less of the contemplation, consideration. More leap before you look, which is the reverse of someone who’s been leaping into dark situations for a decade or more and survived the experience mostly intact.

And of course there’s the opportunity to reward loyal readers who’ve read the other books and shorts, by letting other characters – not the lead guys, not the stars – appear briefly and in unexpected ways. That’s a personal favourite of mine when I read a series, a little nod towards the shared experience of reader and writer.

Short stories? Fun all the way. Mostly...

About the author
Frank Westworth shares several characteristics with his literary anti-hero, JJ Stoner: they both play mean blues guitar and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Unlike Stoner, Frank hasn't deliberately killed anyone. Frank lives in Cornwall in the UK, with his guitars, motorcycles, partner and cat.

You can find Frank Westworth on Facebook | murdermayhemandmore.net

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