Here it is, kids. Call Me Smitty: Carnival. Number seven in the series. Seven installments total in the series featuring my hit-man specialist, Smitty.
'Been thinking of late about Smitty, and writing dark hard boiled/noir, and the components in what makes for a good short story. And heroes. Just exactly how do you define, design, create, write--a hero?
Is it an accident? Do writers deliberately go out and build, like some mechanical exacto set, a character and then slap the label 'hero' on him? Are heroes always Good and True Blue? Or . . . could a hero be normal. A person with as many weaknesses as he has strengths?
Even more interesting, could a hero be a bad guy? Bad in the sense of what society might label someone who does not stay within the accepted social parameters of society. Could a killer be a hit-man?
Guess so. Smitty seems to have developed a small following of fans who enjoy reading about his . . . uh . . . adventures. Hits, or rub-outs, would be more precise. Someone is going to get whacked in each of his stories in one form or fashion. And usually it's pretty violent.
And his fans--what few there are--seem to love it. One said she 'reluctantly rooted for him,' every time he eliminated someone. So . . . I guess . . . a bad guy can be a hero.
What about short-story writing. How do you define a good short-story?
Let me offer this definition. In the genres I write, namely hard boiled/noir and fantasy, they have to be a vivid snapshot of the darkness. Imagery in brevity--emotional undefined--unforgettable.
Let me give you some examples. In 'Call Me Smitty: Carnival' there is a short story entitled, Terrible. A man wants hires Smitty to kill his wife. Even insists on Smitty killing her in a certain fashion so he can stand and watch and enjoy every second of terrified demise. Brutal. Gruesome. Jacked with emotion. And Smitty? What of his response?
In volume two of the Smitty series (Call Me Smitty, Deadly Intent) Smitty rescues a young mother and her children from a husband/father intent on killing them all. They're standing alone, defenseless, in a driving rain on a busy street corner watching traffic go by and knowing, each and every one, they are about to be slaughtered.
From out of the driving rain Smitty finds them. Like some mythological creature he materializes out of the diluge and saves them. Makes sure the husband never bothers any of them again in.
But what made this man the way he his? How do you become an 'anti-hero hero?' Could you write a short story that describes how a good man who once believed in being honest, thoughtful, caring, and loving suddenly turn into the hard edge, emotionally dead kind of soul a hit-man needs to have in order to succeed in his new profession.
And can you do it with brevity? Yes. In the story called Call Me Smitty, found in the first volume of the series (Call Me Smitty: the Beginning) a cop who once called himself Johnny is betrayed. Betrayed ruthlessly by his wife and his brother. Johnny slips into an insane, murderous rage.
Does he kill his brother and his wife? Ah . . . the first portion of the story certainly sets the reader up for that conclusion. But . . .
And that's the other part about writing a good short-story. Set the reader up for one expectation. And then throw them into an entirely different bone. What they think is going to happen and what actually happens turns out to be two entirely different events.
In each of these examples I tried to write verbal portraits of vivid clarity in as few words I could possible muster. For me, that's a great short-story. Clarity. Brevity. Emotional. Vividly memorable.
Oh . . . I know, I know: sometimes I am so full of myself! Sometimes I sound like some schmuck who is blowing his horn much too loudly in a crowded building. But that's okay. Someone once told me, "If you don't believe in yourself, who else will?"
That thought has stuck with me ever since.