I can’t think of a good picture to head this post, so you get Kate Bush instead. Pretty good compromise, I’d say.
I’m working on this collection of short stories. My reference points are:
- Roald Dahl’s Kiss Kiss, for the twistedness.
- Stephen King’s Night Shift for the unbridled horror.
- Martin Amis’s London Fields for the humour within the squalor.
- Patrick Hamilton’s Hangover Square for the gloom.
Of course, these are lofty aspirations, but nothing good comes from being half-assed.
Most of my stories are inspired by the last ten years in London. As I am slowly making my way through them – from idea, to draft, to (endless) revision, to final piece – I have noticed some overlap. Not in the way the stories are similar, but in the characters. For example, I have one called Fashion Rules (CoS reference there, for all you early noughties electroclash stragglers). It’s a nasty little tale about the vicious world fashion and how badly all the unpaid interns are treated. Sort of like Devil Wears Prada, but with more cocaine and people being skinned alive. The villainess of the piece is a designer called Molly Molyneaux.
Now, I loved writing Molly, and 5,000 words really wasn’t enough (although an entire novel would’ve been stretching the joke). So yesterday, I was writing a party scene for another story and I thought Let’s whack Molly in it and interlink the stories.
And then something wonderful happened – I realised I could do something similar to pretty much every story. Recurring drug dealers. Recurring band managers. That dick at the party who keeps telling you about his crap job and how well he’s doing in life (SPOILER ALERT: he dies). Connect them all together, sometimes loosely, sometimes obviously.
The end result would be a cohesive collection of short stories that also work individually. A bit like a concept album. A gestalt.
I love continuity.
If you’re a Stephen King Constant Reader, you’ll get a kick out of most of his novels at some point where he makes a reference from a previous tale. From the obvious connection of Alan Pangborn as a major player in both The Dark Half and Needful Things to Sheriff George Bannerman’s bit-parts in The Dead Zone and Cujo.
No longer are these individual stories, but they exist together in this strange parallel universe.
And so yesterday, I realised I had my own little Castle Rock. Except mine’s a squalid little square of London where tower blocks have barbwire perimeters and it is always winter.
Linking the stories this way makes the whole experience seem a more complete. And it’s really satisfying to write, because when you add a character from a previous tale into a new one, you already know them and their little quirks. It can bring a stale scene alive.
I think I’ll be leaving London in about a year (although I’ve been saying that every January since 2009). This collection feels like my parting kiss to a city I love and loathe in equal measure.
Anyway, tell me about you… Do you guys link your stories together? Are there recurring characters or settings you use?