Okay, so you want to compile an anthology of short stories, but there are many things to consider, quite apart from the decision about whether to go ahead with the idea.
What are the main considerations?
– Will it be theme-based or genre-based?
– Will it be one person’s work or a variety of authors?
– How many titles should there be?
– What length should the average story be?
– What price range do you aim for?
Yes, there are many more questions, but we now have a flavour of what is involved in compiling a collection of stories.
Theme versus genre?
Themes – and this is a mere handful of examples.
– Natural History
– Day and Night
Anybody can come up with a theme. Your chosen theme can be as tightly controlled, or as wide-ranging as you choose.
Genre – and once again, a handful of examples.
– Young Adult
It should be easy to see now that with regard to genre, they are well-established and they each have sub-genres which are easy to identify.
For example, ‘Erotica’ leads to Straight, Gay, Bi, BDSM, TV, TS, and a few more besides.
The difference with theme-based work is that it is an even wider spectrum than a genre. I’ll choose one theme at random from my previous spontaneous shortlist, and then I’ll explore it mentally for no more than two minutes. I will set a stopwatch for this exercise.
We’ll say for example that I’m entering a short story competition and the guidelines are:
Word count: 2000 min to 2500 max,
Line spacing: Double-spacing in Times New Roman – pt 12.
Closing Date: 34th Zonkemper 2095
Are you ready for this?
My theme is ‘Imprisoned’? The stopwatch is on …
1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside …
2. – a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle …
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor …
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim …
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior …
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash …
I’ve been given a definite theme – imprisoned.
I’ve created a rapid list of ideas and any one of them could work with that theme but are they the same genre?
No, they are not the same genre. To see why; let’s look closer at how my mind works.
1. – a 14-year old boy is washed into a cave at the seaside … the boy is the son of a werewolf and his anguish brings about his first ever experience of transformation.
2. -a soldier awakes trapped in a damaged tank after an explosion in a battle … the soldier looks down at his scarlet tunic and body armour as he slips his feet from his Roman sandals. He wonders what happened to the other centurions in the explosion.
3. – a woman wakes up bound and gagged in a cellar with a straw-covered floor … there is a longbow, a quiver of arrows and a barrel of dynamite in the corner.
4. – a dog is on a small island and the owner cannot swim … the dog has taken the gun that the female owner used to shoot her husband only a short while before.
5. – a light plane crashes onto a remote island and the only survivors are a beautiful woman and a handsome man who is ten years her junior … the young man is the woman’s long lost brother. He knows; she doesn’t.
6. – a car overturns and sinks in a river, but the driver survives the crash … the man in the car is dressed in women’s clothing and on his way to his first-ever transvestite meeting in a remote village.
What have we established?
An anthology is a supremely flexible production.
– it can be a mixture of stories by one author.
– it can be a mixture of stories by various authors.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of genre.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a nominated theme.
– it can be a mixture of stories using a variety of themes.
– it can be a mixture of any of the aforementioned.
Here I feature, ‘Not What You Thought’, which is an example of mixed genre, mixed theme and mixed authors. The main author is Paul Ruddock who has compiled a selection of his own stories and complemented them with work by guest authors.
Please find below, links to this anthology. Paul Ruddock (PA Rudders) is a blogger, reviewer, author of short stories, and founder of the Indie Author Support and Discussione group on Facebook. He also created the original website now converted to be the Indie Author Support and Discussion blog/website.
The proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to a British military veteran’s charity.
What’s my experience with anthologies?
I have short stories traditionally published in separate anthologies which are all theme-based and have a variety of authors.
I have one short story published on an audio CD, which is theme-based and has a variety of authors.
I have self-published several anthologies of short stories.
I have a series of five genre-based anthologies of poetry.
– Smoke & Mirrors: and other stories, is an example of a theme-based collection.
Twist-in-the-tale, but using a range of genre.
– Coming Around: and other erotic stories is an example of a genre-based collection.
Erotica, but using a range of sub-genre.
I believe that for general reader satisfaction either can work.
– A genre-based collection will appeal to lovers of the particular genre.
– A theme-based collection will appeal to lovers of short stories.
If compiled well, an anthology can produce a selection of completely different stories.
My personal preference is that an anthology should have around 12 stories with or without bonus stories from another collection.
If you’re new to the idea of anthologies or have up until now wondered what all the fuss was about, I hope I’ve cleared away some of the mystery. These have been my own thoughts, gained from experience, and are not ideas influenced by any textbook information.
As always, I thank you for coming by and reading my thoughts. Please leave a comment if you feel so inclined.