Until a few years ago, I was under the impression that novels were the only form of literature worth pursuing. I didn’t even consider the idea of writing short stories. That is, until I wrote “Antebellum” (now published in the third volume of the Global Youth Review). Ever since then, I’ve gravitated towards short stories.
I won’t go in depth on the pros and cons of short stories because Yessica already has a wonderful post detailing them, but instead I’ll talk about the benefits of and steps to writing an interconnected short story collection.
What are Interconnected Short Story Collections?
Short story collections are exactly what they sound like. Authors gather an assortment of short stories and publish them as one book. Often, they aren’t connected and work exclusively as standalone pieces.
However, there are some collections that are interconnected. Despite being in the format of multiple stories, they are all interwoven and tied together to create one long story.
This is the style I’ve chosen for my current novel, Caged Blackbirds, which is told in the form of seven short stories. Some published examples include The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.
These stories are tied together by a variety of things, which I discuss below.
Benefits of Writing this Type of Collection
Interconnected short story collections act as a bridge between short stories and novels. And as such, the benefits are a mix of the pros of both formats.
Characters can develop beyond the constraints of one short story.
The plot doesn’t have to be as structured.
You have a lot of space to explore subplots and other themes.
You can experiment on some of the stories (and you should in order to make some stick out).
Steps to Write an Interconnected Short Story Collection
Decide how you want the stories to connect: There are four general ways to do this: subject, characters, setting, plot. Your collection will probably be a combination of a few of these.
Subject: This would be like how the stories in The Things We Carried were all about the Vietnam War. This is the least interconnected of the main types.
Characters: This would mean having the same set of central characters, or perhaps just a common main character, for each story.
Setting: In this variant, there would be a connected setting, and with each story, you’d learn a little more about it.
Plot: This one is the closest to an actual novel. There’s a connected plot throughout the stories and each one pushes it forward.
Flesh Out the Connecting Element: This applies to any of the four options above.
Take some time to fully get to know the connecting element. Even if you didn’t select character, this element will almost act as the “main character” of your collection. For example, if you have a connected world, take the time to develop the world because it will act as the foundation for your whole collection.
Write the stories: This one is the most self explanatory, but there are several tips to making the stories flow together.
Make a note as to the way each story contributes to the connecting element.
Character: Which character does it delve into and what does it reveal about the main character?
Subject: What does it reveal about the subject matter?
Setting: What new element did it introduce to the setting?
Plot: How did it move the plot forward?
If you don’t have connecting characters, add little hints that the stories are set in the same universe.
Mention plot points from previous stories.
Have previous stories impact the plots of others.
Don’t stress over having each story stand on its own.
While the majority of the stories should be able to stand on their own, it’s okay—especially for more plot driven collections—if a few can’t work without the rest of the collection.
Try to get a few of the short stories published in LitMags. This helps generate interest in your characters. The LitMag will let you write an author bio, so make sure to mention your author website and/or social media accounts.
You will likely have to self publish your collection. There isn’t much of a market for short story collections in traditional publishing, and unfortunately this includes interconnected ones. However, if you have a decent amount of the individual stories published, there is a slight chance of getting traditionally published, but it is still much harder than a traditional novel.
While that last note is a tad bleak, that doesn’t erase the many, many creative benefits that come from writing an interconnected short story collection. There is an audience for those books, and if you enjoy the format, writing this type of collection is an incredibly fulfilling experience.
I’d like to thank Yessica for offering to let me write a blog post; I’ve been following her blog since the beginning, and her tips are super helpful!
Trisha Reddy is an Indian-American high-schooler with a passion for writing. She loves writing characters and dialogue and has a particular fondness for queer media and found family. Her favorite part of the writing process is character creation, although she has a soft spot for editing. Ever since she was seven, her favorite genre has been fantasy, but she’s recently developed an interest in contemporary fiction.