Things I Learned Writing An Anthology – Part II
And I’m back, sort of.
Okay, I’m still a bit unwell, but finally on the mend. In the meantime let’s continue with that discussion about some of the things I learned putting together our first anthology.
First off it was somewhat easier than creating an entire novel. With a novel you have to keep track of so many things like character development, interactions, subplots, pace of the story, etc. Now with an anthology, you still have a lot of stories to contend with but each one is self-contained and has its own beginning and end. You don’t have to be worried about how they fit into the main tale. Plus you can have a greater variety of characters and give each tale a flavor all its own. Sounds pretty easy so far right? Well, here’s where things started to get a little more complicated for me.
Like a novel, an anthology does need to have a certain feeling of cohesiveness to it. There must be some facet or factor that makes the reader feel like the stories all belong together in that one volume. This is of course fairly easy to do when you’re dealing with a bunch of stories by various authors dealing with the same subject matter. “The Penguin Book of Vampires” is a great example. It contains dozens of authors within its pages with each one using an actual vampire character or a variation on that theme.
Another simple method of dealing with this cohesive problem is to do an anthology that contains works by the same author. One of my favorite authors is the legendary Isaac Asimov, a prolific writer beyond compare.
Throwing a collection of his works together should be easy right? Wrong! While known for his volume of work in the field of science-fiction, Mr. Asimov also wrote mysteries, as well a huge body of non-fiction. So here you have to ask yourself what kind of anthology would you want? Do you want to have a sampling from different areas of his works to showcase just how versatile he was? Or would you rather want to focus on just one genre of his work at a time? Considering the volume of work the man left behind, most anthology creators have chosen the latter. This was especially true when he was still with us.
In the case of his mystery sleuths “The Black Widowers”, the publishers gathered all his published tales with these characters who solve puzzles and mysteries while sitting in a restaurant. The publishers also got Mr. Asimov to create an introduction to each collection (there were 5 all together), as well, but they didn’t stop there. Mr. Asimov provided some brand new tales that had never been published to make each collection more special. Furthermore, he add afterthoughts to every story giving the readers new insights to his characters as well as how he came up with the puzzles.
From there I started looking through the other anthologies by various authors (HP Lovecraft, sci-fi and horror collections) in our personal library to see what was done in those cases. And guess what I discovered, each collection had an Introduction/Preface depending on if the works were all the same author or by various authors. Furthermore, just about every tale in each anthology also had some thoughts at the beginning or end of it talking about the author, or thoughts they’d had on the work. Quite different than just having an “About the Author” at the end of your novel. Naturally we had hour work cut out for us, but there was still the issue of a feeling of connection between the stories. Did we have one or not?
To answer this question I found myself going back to the original source for many of the stories in our anthology, our online blog “The Vampyre Blogs – Private Edition”.
TO BE CONTINUED…