Monday, October 10, 2011

Why I Like Short Stories

Why do I like the short story? Even though it’s one of the most demanding writing forms because of its concentrated plot and characterization, it’s also one of the most personal and fun forms of writing.

Short stories allow the reader to meet a new character or characters, experience a situation, setting and conflict in a limited amount of words and reading time. Short stories allow the reader to get a glimpse into someone else’s world and often finish the entire encounter in one sitting. And if the story is an emotional, humorous or suspenseful one, the reader gets to cry, chuckle or cringe as an added bonus. What can be more fun than that?
Our lives are filled with short stories. Everyday we tell or hear a short story.  It can be a long harrowing story steeped with conflict or a short slice of life that depicts the everyday life of ordinary people. There’s the caring next -door neighbor who goes to the aid of a sick friend across town and gets a speeding ticket on the way home. Or the irksome elderly man in the check-out aisle (ahead of you, of course) who argues with the weary cashier over his expired coupons--and who finally decides to abandon half his items while the line grows longer and longer. . .and longer.

The difference between being a short story teller and a short story writer is just simply having the ability to put your story into a permanent written format that has a beginning, middle and end.

Many ideas for writing a short story start with an incident. It can be something you read, something you heard, something you’ve seen or something you’ve experienced. It can be a “What if” moment when you’re daydreaming. Obviously, every incident must be expanded into a story idea and encompass a few basic fundamentals of short story writing like plot and problem, setting, characters, time and theme. And like any fiction, characters and conflict drive the story in the short story.  

Unlike novels, short stories can be created in reasonable time frames that range from short shorts of 500 words to novelettes of 10,000. If I had to make a list of my favorite short story writers, the Grimm Brothers, Alice Munro, Edgar Allan Poe and Jack London would be on it. Who are your favorites?


  1. Nice to see your first effort at blogging, JudyAnn. I'm a bit of a sci-fi nut myself so I like Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov and Andre Norton as my top three short story writers. London and Munro would also be on the list plus a couple of New Zealand writers Patricia Grace and Witi Ihimaera.

  2. Thank you for your kinds words. I, too, like Isaac Asimov a lot. I've always been fascinated by the short story, although I am currently working on my second novel.