This thesis contains two parts: a creative component, "Two Novellas," and a critical essay, "Narrative Strategies in the Novella 1984-2004."
The creative component is made up of two novellas. The first, "Road Story," concerns a young woman, Diana, who flees from a traumatic event. She takes a bed and a job in a roadhouse in the western New South Wales and finds her life suspended in limbo, as she tries to come to terms with both past and present. The second, "Town Story," traces the effects of death, love and betrayal on a young Dutch nurse, a dentist and a terminally ill patient in an isolated mining town in Western Australia. With each of these novellas, I seek to represent contemporary working life in rural and isolated Australia, at the same time as making a useful contribution to genre of the novella.
The critical essay,
"Narrative Strategies in the Novella 1984-2004," implicitly acknowledges the dialogue between reading fiction and writing fiction: the key questions that occupied me from an early stage in the writing of the novellas are the same questions I set out to answer here: What does it mean to label a contemporary work of fiction a novella? Is the contemporary novella a genre, with an accompanying set of conventions, or is the term simply a word used to denote narrative fiction of a certain length? And perhaps most importantly for my purposes as a novella writer, are there particular narrative strategies that "belong" to the novella in its contemporary form: if so, are contemporary audiences likely to be able to identify them? The essay concludes that genre is a crucial and productive lens through which to consider the novella, that there are indeed particular narrative strategies that are well suited to the 15,000 to 50,000 word length most commonly
identified with the genre, and that novella writers during the decade 1984-2004 regularly employ generic conventions identified by novella critics from previous eras as "belonging" to the novella genre. This is so despite the form being largely overshadowed by the more powerful and more prestigious novel, and despite the publishing industry's reluctance to market the novella to contemporary readers.