Half Lies is a brand new short story for fans of Half Bad – and it’s out today!
We know that lots of Half Bad fans just can’t wait for the release of Half Wild in March 2015, so Sally has written Half Lies, telling the backstory of one of Half Bad‘s most popular characters – Gabriel. Below is more from Sally on the journey to writing Half Lies, which you can download through Amazon and iTunes. Enjoy – and as ever, let Sally know your thoughts in the comments here, or on Twitter (@sa11egreen).
HALF LIES: Writing a short story.
My editor said, ‘It doesn’t need to be long. Between five and ten thousand words.’
‘Five thousand and one then,’ I replied.
Easy for him to say. And as it turns out pretty impossible for me to do. I went past the 5,000 mark in no time, was hovering between 8,000 and 9,000 for two weeks determined not to go over 9,999, adding 200 here and cutting 150 there until I gave up trying to keep it ‘short’ and just wrote the story I wanted to write. It ended up at 15,000 words – three times as long as I was aiming for.
My editor said that a story about Gabriel would be good, ‘Everyone likes him.’ And I wanted to write about Gabriel – for those of you who haven’t read HALF BAD or have done and have forgotten who Gab is (splutter!?!), well he’s the French/Swiss handsome guy who saves Nathan’s life at the end of the story by risking his own (Sorry – have I not mentioned the SPOILER ALERT thing too late). So I started writing a story about Gabriel from Gabriel’s point of view, but it was just WRONG. It didn’t work. Gabriel is not a ‘me, me, me’ person. He doesn’t think about himself (and once he meets Nathan he definitely only thinks of Nathan). So I quickly dropped the Gabriel voice and told his story from a different angle.
Gabriel has a father and sister (mentioned in HALF BAD) and dead mother and grandmother (the latter killed by his father in self-defence), which seemed like a plenty of plot to expand on. And HALF LIES does cover some of this ground explaining how his mother and grandmother died, but goes much further than that to paint a picture of the remaining family (dad, Gab and Michele) and what they do and how it ends up that Gabriel returns to Switzerland from the USA where HALF LIES is set.
I tell the story of HALF LIES from the point of view of Michele, Gabriel’s sister, as a diary – her diary.
More about the Idea
Why use a diary to tell this story?
This story covers a long period of time – several years so I needed a format that would work for that. Short stories, I was told on my Creative Writing courses, are best when focused on short periods of time (a day, an hour etc. , one incident, one scene). But HALF LIES isn’t a Creative Writing Course short story and as I’ve said already, it’s not that short. Basically I hoped that a diary would keep the reader interested – we’ll just have to see if that has worked.
Almost ready to start writing
Before I began I re-read a few short stories from champions of the genre – Hemingway (always a favourite) and Carver (another favourite) but I also tried Flannery O’Connor. I feel a bit ridiculous mentioning these great names as helpers for my short story but there’s the truth of what I tried to do, not to copy them, but to get into the mood of the short story – and there is definitely an intense mood in a good short story.
So then I was almost ready to begin writing, I was in a short story mood, but I wasn’t confident about being in a diary mood (and I wasn’t sure about how to write dialogue in a diary – I mean who would do that?) Anyway, I read The Bunker Diary (I loved it by the way) to see what Kevin Brooks did and I realised that I had to stop worrying about dialogue and just use it. And if any girl was likely to write dialogue in her diary, Michele would.
I just wrote it. It kept growing as I’ve already said.
Half Truth? Half False? Half Lost? Half Found? Half Buried? Half Alive? Half Cut? Half Mad? Half bloody written and still no title!
I had lists of potential titles but what was the right one? About half way through writing the story I had to give my editor my final choice. I realised there were a few lies being told, so HALF LIES it was.
I set HALF LIES in Florida although I’d never been there and I don’t like writing about places I don’t know. But I had to set it somewhere in the US (this was the location Gabriel mentions in HALF BAD) but I didn’t want to use New York or California (places in the US I have been to) because, well I just didn’t . So I had to rely on the internet for lots of information (climate, locations etc.) and thankfully my wonderful US editors gave me lots of advice (no she won’t be eating muesli and she won’t be travelling by bus). I spent a lot of time trying to work out the bus system in eastern Florida and all I can say is that all mentions of buses have been edited out of the final story and Michele now drives a car.
Short stories are funny things (not) they are often very worthy and almost like poetry in that the critics and writers of them can get a bit up their own arses about their meaning and merit etc. Really it just needs to be a good story – preferably a great one. I’ve tried to do what Flannery O’Connor asks of short story writers, and I’m happy enough that I’ve captured Michele’s manners and a little of Gabriel’s mystery.
Gabriel’s world is full of death and that is why he loves Nathan. Nathan to him represents life, possibility and hope.