I like short stories—both writing them and reading them. Some of the most memorable fiction I’ve read has been in the form of short stories. The power of a short story is its brevity. It can sometimes get the point over better than a novel. Take Ernest Hemmingway’s six-word masterpiece:
Those six words carry so much potency because we, the reader, are forced to speculate as to what has happened. Hemmingway could have fleshed out the story. We could have seen a couple write the want ad for the newspaper or have an expectant couple respond to the want ad for the baby shoes. We could have had the drama and emotion of a much longer tale. But y’know what? It wasn’t necessary. Six words were all that needed to convey the same. That’s what’s so fantastic about short stories. They can be a few thousand words or a handful of pages but if the story is well written and the reader brings their imagination to the plate, everyone goes on a much longer journey.
I advocate for the short story because I am always surprised that so many people dislike them. This post is inspired by some recent reviews I’ve received where some people said they hated short stories and one person complained that they were a cheat on the reading public. Naturally, people are entitled to their opinion but this opinion surprises me in this day and age. We consume information at faster and faster rates. We need everything now and condensed. Hell, we have a billion dollar company that is founded on communication in 140 characters or less. It should be a golden age for short stories. But it isn’t.
When people say they don’t like short stories or don’t read them that’s not strictly true. If you watch TV drama, you’re watching a short story. A script for an hour long show is less than fifty pages. A half hour comedy will top out at twenty five pages at the very, very most. So don’t tell me you don’t like short stories. J
So (putting my car salesman hat on) what do I have to do to put you in a short story today? Beg? I will if you ask nicely. Make you dinner? I can cook. Babysit your kids? Let’s not get carried away. Look, I dare you to read a short story and not enjoy it. I just ask that you come to it with an open mind and an open heart. If you want to read one of mine, I have plenty to suggest (just scroll to the bottom of this post). Want other author recommendations, I’m happy to oblige. Because I’m going to keep on making the case for them and I’m going to keep on writing them so you just need to give in and do as I say. It’s for the best.
Look, I’m willing to meet you halfway. For years I’ve been trying to come up with a six word story as good as Hemmingway’s, but I have developed a taste for the novella in recent years. I want to write some short stories in the ten to twenty thousand word range (aka 50-100 pages). Something with plenty of depth that’ll occupy your time on your commute to and from work or during a lunch hour. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Admit it. You know it does.
But while I think about it, I can still see the short story stigma being a problem. It’s a packaging and branding problem. The short story needs a 21stcentury makeover. Let’s not call them short stories anymore. Let’s call them the “Blip Novels.” Yeah, I like it. Now they’ll take off.
Categories: shelf life