Fear in Writing: the SHORT story

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

the SHORT story

Washington Irving,
known for his short
stories, i.e. The Legend
of Sleepy Hollow and
Rip Van Winkle.
Do you like short stories? 

There are many compilations of shorts out there.  There are many famous writers known for their shorts--Edgar Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. 

There are many reasons to read short stories.  One: they're short, and time seems to be important these days.  Two: they are condensed and, therefore, the reader reaches the action/turning point more quickly.  Three: as a writer, it's a way to get many ideas out there and show your versatility.  Foru: also as a writer, it is a way to get something published in a mass media circuit, i.e. magazines.

But do they sell?  I looked for statistics but couldn't find them.  In my opinion, based on the fact that I never buy them and I buy a lot of books, I would guess short stories sell less often in book form than do other types of writing.

And yet, there is so much potential in a short story.  Recently, I've been reading an anthology of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holme stories.  Yes, stories.  They all fit in two volumes--paperback-size--so they can't be too long.  And each night I have managed to read one of the longer ones, or two of the Adventures.  This is a satisfying feeling!  Not only was I pleased that these great detective stories held up against time, but I was so pleased with myself for reaching a definitive in any book: the End.
What prompted this discussion of the short story?  A review by Rose City Reader of the short story compilation Saving Stanley by Scott Nadelson.  I won't rewriter her review here (for that you must click the link), but I will repeat that "collection of eight interrelated stories about Daniel Brickman and his family. The stories move back and forth in time and focus on different family members, eventually piecing together a family history..."  How interesting is that?!  A group of short stories that, together, make up a whole.  A puzzle of writing.

What about you?  Do you read short stories?  Do you buy books that are compilations of shorts?  Do you subscribe to literary magazines that contain short stories?  If you're a writer, would you rather write a bunch of shorts, or one successful full-lenth work?


  1. I've purchased a few books of short stories, but usually they are all by the same author. (i.e. - Anne McCaffrey's Get Off The Unicorn and Stephen King's Night Shift.)

  2. Michele - As always, you raise such an interesting question! I love short stories as an alternative to reading novels. They require a different sort of writing and a different sort of thinking from novels. That's why they complement novels as well as they do. I have a real admiration, too, for people who are talented at writing both novels and short stories.

  3. I don't read too many short stories, but I have enjoyed several compilations - usually I'm drawn to them because I like one of the authors. Sword & Sorceress is the title of one anthology I've enjoyed... I think that's the title at least :)

  4. well I write short stories, I read novels, my children read short stories compiled all together in a book, and if I could afford magazines for writers with short stories in it, I so would buy them. But I do not know if I would rather have short stories or one full length published, for me its more like stepping stones, write poetry and short stories, get them published, then when confident, redue novels and start finding an agent. But everyone has their own process.

  5. I grew up on short stories, and for many years wrote only short stories. I have been wanting to write a book with interconnected short stories - makes me want to pick up the book to see how it was done.
    Long live the short story.

  6. I've read a few, but not many. Do graphic novels count?

  7. I haven't always liked short stories but over the years not only have I picked some up and started reading them but I have also started writing them.

    Great post.


  8. I've read some great short stories, but I don't think I'd care to write one myself. When I read something (and in turn write), I prefer to wait for the high moments and the turning points, that way I can get in touch with the characters first.

  9. I'm glad I inspired your reading and this very interesting essay! And thanks for the link!

  10. I adore short stories, they are so refreshing, and concise and are usually more creative than novels because everything has to fit in a few short passages.
    I used to read tons of short stories during my 3 hour train ride to college and back.

    My favourite book of short stories is SPEAKING WITH THE ANGEL edited by Nick Hornby with fiction stories from many different people including some famous actors (Colin Firth for example). An amazing book.

  11. I'm not sure why my comment above was published under ANONYMOUS :)

  12. I love to mix it up in my reading and my writing. I do read compilations of short stories and we have a subscription to Harpers which uses short stories. The Nadelson book sounds intriguing!