Thomas Ligotti has become one of my favorite contemporary horror writers. Like my favorite contemporary science fiction writer, Ted Chiang, Ligotti writes exclusively short stories. Both writers have never published anything longer than a novella. In this excerpt from an interview, Ligotti explains why he has not and never will write a novel:
I think it’s safe to say that I will never write a novel. The reason is this: I really don’t like fiction, and novels are what fiction is all about. The only fictional works that I’ve ever admired are those which have their formal basis in essays (Borges), poetry (Bruno Schulz), monologues (Thomas Bernhard), or all three (Poe and Lovecraft). I want to hear a writer speaking, not see a movie in my mind that takes days or weeks to get through rather than 100 minutes or the time it takes to watch a multi-part mini-series. Why would anyone want to read The Silence of the Lambs when they could see the movie?
Work for Idle Hands was originally written in 2016 as a 9,000-word short story. At that time I was still pursuing screenwriting in tandem with prose writing, so I decided to adapt the story into a screenplay. But after unsuccessfully trying to pitch the screenplay to agents and producers, I decided to re-adapt it back into prose form, but longer since I had expanded the original short story when adapting it into movie form. This final version is a sort of amalgam of the short story and screenplay, which I expanded upon further. The final word count is triple the length of the original short story, at almost 30,000 words. I think this novella version is the best of the three. The novella may be my favorite form for a story. It is the perfect length to tell a full story and develop characters without getting bogged down by side-plots.
Where do you get your ideas? That seems to be a question that every writer hates. Most don’t have an answer. It almost seems kind of magical how ideas come to them. But I don’t think it’s magic at all. I think I know how every writer and artist gets their ideas: data inputs to their consciousness. Continue reading →
My favorite part of writing might be outlining. Not actually creating a formal outline, but the moment I first hatch the idea and jot notes down. It’s more like free-writing. The ideas come to me rapidly, and I just try to get it all down as fast as I can. They come out of order: plot points, characters, action scenes, settings… My mind naturally sculpts the ideas into stories with three acts: a beginning, middle, and end. In a half-hour, I could have a page or two—and it may look like a mess—but it’ll contain the structure of an entire screenplay/novel. I can see the entire story in my head like a movie. My mind fills in the gaps between the scenes. It feels complete. I don’t even need to write it—other than to share it with other people. Continue reading →
A common question that writers are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Most writers seem to hate the question because they have no clear answer. I can understand that. Sometimes an idea just comes to me, and I’m not quite sure where it came from. But other times, I can trace the source of the idea. I’ll see a great movie or read a great book and get inspired to write something as good. Or I’ll see a bad movie or read a poor book and get inspired to write something better. Or I’ll take one small nugget from a fictional story, or from real life, and expand upon it. But there’s more to it than that. Thinking of ideas requires…well…thinking. Literally devoting time to daydreaming and brainstorming ideas. Continue reading →