Hubby and I had a serious discussion the other day. It was about the benefits of chocolate chip cookies. We're not talking ordinary chocolate chip cookies but the ones I whip up in the kitchen--the ones I call my "Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Chocolate Chip Cookies." And, did I mention it has lots of robust, dark chocolate chips--not just a sprinkle and not the wimpy milk chocolate? It's also loaded with roasted pecans, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds as well as rolled oats, ground flax, fine coconut, fat raisins, grated orange peel, cinnamon, all tossed into the butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla mixture with just enough flour to hold everything together. Your taste buds are tantalized as the baking smells of roasted nuts and dark chcolate spreads throughout the house. When you take that first bite--while the cookie is still warm with that gooey chocolate--all your worries seem to disappear. I think I could ask for the Moon and probably get it.
The reason Hubby and I were even having this discussion was because of this television show I happened to catch called "Recipes to Riches," a reality show with this particular episode focusing on cookies and squares. The baking competition narrowed the 150 contestants down to three women--each with a family favourite recipe that wow the judges. To eliminate one of the three contestants, the women had to show that their recipe could be converted to a commercial level by baking 1000 cookies or 1000 squares. Each contestant had a team of consultants and helpers plus enormous quantities of supplies as well as access to huge commercial ovens. The prize was $25,000 to the winner and the winning cookie or square would be available to consumers in all the Superstores across Canada.
This was quite an eye-opener because the initial small batches were perfect and won over the judges but multiplying the quantity really jeopardized the quality.
It got me thinking. The same principle could also apply to stories. Writers who create short stories learn the art of using their words sparingly. I don't mean being stingy with words--I mean using the perfect words to immediately set the scene or with snappy dialogue to explain the action. Novelists have the advantage of being wordier in painting the mood, setting a dramatic scene or diving into the action.
But, like the cookies baked in small batches, short stories can be difficult to expand into books. I'm sure some of the essence must get lost--like in translations when the exact meaning in one language is lost in another. A specific character from the short story can be used in future books but in expanding the original short story itself, the tale may lose something in transition. I really admire writers who successfully convert their short stories to a novel or even a screen play--the transition appears seamless and smooth. Sometimes the movie credits will mention that the story has been adapted from an original short story. We would never know this tidbit because short or long, if the writer was successful in expanding his story, it should still grab your attention and hold it.
I think of short stories as my appetizer or even a tasty dessert while books or novels are the main course or entree. While some appetizers can be used as a main course when you're not as hungry, short stories can be just as satisfying because while cookies are baking or dinner is simmering, there is time enough to savour the complete story and enjoy every morsel until it's finish.