Updated: Nov 1, 2018
Why does this format need justification?
A short story could be like a basement of a villa, a supporting act before the headliner of a novel.
We have fewer words and far less space at our disposal to bring our characters to live, give the dialogues colour and make the point.
As writers, we are challenged to accommodate maximum punch for minimum words, which can leave the readers long for more.
Are short stories half the fun of a novel?
Writer Katy Darby also thinks that short stories are often seen as a niche area of fiction. And also as inherently "literary" (which for many publishers equates to "non-commercial") and that's why it's still nigh-on impossible to sell a collection of short stories to a publisher (noble exceptions like Salt and Faber aside) without a novel to precede it.
Yet at the same time, there are live story events springing up all over the place and proving very popular, which shows there's a demand for the form, thinks Katy.
“In many ways, I think the current upsurge in fiction events continues a tradition begun back in the 1850s by Dickens himself - his readings of his own work were legendary, and massively popular,”says Katy.
If still in doubt, there is still a lot of evidence all around us proving that a well crafted short story does the trick – let’s just name a few who serve us as great inspiration.
Authors that inspire
How to make the reader emerge in the plot, and leave a lasting impact?
Franz Kafka, Anton Chekov, and O. Henry, among others, are considered masters of the genre.
Alice Munro, “master of the contemporary short story”, and winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature is one example of how to say more with less.
Munro once said in an interview she didn’t certainly intend to write short stories, she was going to write a novel. “And still! I still come up with ideas for novels. And I even start novels. But something happens to them. They break up. I look at what I really want to do with the material, and it never turns out to be a novel.”
For Munro it was simply a matter of expediency. She had small children and didn’t have any help.
“So I wrote in bits and pieces with a limited time expectation. Perhaps I got used to thinking of my material in terms of things that worked that way. And then when I got a little more time, I started writing these odder stories, which branch out a lot.”
And it worked well.
You can read some of her stories for free in The New Yorker.
Haruki Murakami, Roald Dahl or Alberto Moravia – some of our favourite writers also wrote gripping short stories and give us a great example of how to play with it.
Let’s play with it.
Follow our editing tips and get motivation if you need it to move on.
We all do sometime.
And start writing (again). For the start.