“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.”
I’m reiterating Neil Gaiman’s words, above, because I think they say so much about the charm of the short story. Short stories are not only a second cousin to poetry; they are not simply an exercise in the skill and craft of producing tautly written fiction: they are also brief enough to be enjoyed over a short period time.
Edgar Allan Poe described the impact of this brevity as a unity of effect:
“If any literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from unity of impression—for, if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is at once destroyed.”
Edgar Allan Poe
I believe this is true. When our reading is interrupted by the need to eat, sleep, drink or communicate with others, the storyworld in which we have been immersed is abandoned. The mood, tone and immediacy of the story are lost. Which is why short stories can have a more startling impact than the longer narratives found in novels.
All of which is mentioned because I have a book coming out later this year: How to Write ShortStories and Get Them Published. I’ve loved short stories since I was first able to read. I’ve written more than 100 and my PhD was based around the notion that there is a relationship between plot and genre in short fiction.
Over the coming months I’m going to be blogging about some of my favourite short stories, some of the techniques that are found in short fiction, some ideas for inspiration, and other areas of interest for those who enjoy reading and/or writing short fiction. If this sounds like something that will be of interest, please tell your friends, and make sure you keep coming back to see the updated content.