The last few years has seen a rise in the popularity of short stories, and a rise in famous authors writing them, at least according to The Telegraph. One of the reasons speculated for this is the advent of electronic readers, and shorter times for reading. A short story allows you to make a brief examination of a character, an idea, or even a mood, and then let’s you get back to what you were doing.
I have a mixed relationship with short stories. I tend to think in novels whenever I have an idea. I like to go into all the depth I can, living with characters to their inevitable end, and through all the machinations of plot and life. That said, I do love writing a good forty minute story when the mood strikes me.
Short stories can kind of seem like an obligation for the aspiring writer. Publishers aren’t as willing to take a chance on your 100K word tome, but they might throw you 4000 words in a magazine. It’s the proving ground for writers. But it’s more than that in the hands of the right writer. Ray Bradbury was a master of the form, each story almost a poem in the way in set the scene and drew you in.
And short stories can often be seen as an obligation to the reader too. Honestly where did you read most of the short stories you’ve ever read: in school (unless you’re like me and gobbled up every Asimov robot story)? It’s a form we don’t take as seriously. It’s not something you can have on your shelf to impress others, and it doesn’t carry the same sense of accomplishment as wading your way through something heavy like Dune or The Lord Of The Rings.
I understand the whole “not having enough time” thing. For me instead of short stories, I’ve turned to graphic novels for my quick read on the go. But attention span is a factor in whatever you are writing. You want to be able to keep your reader engaged, while at the same time acknowledging their schedule.
Actually, you know what? Never mind. As a writer you want to draw your reader in so deep that they gobble up all of your book before they realize they’ve been spending hours. We don’t want to craft novels you can read in snippets. We want to take you for a ride and not let you go until you’ve reached the destination.
But if we keep the chapters short maybe we can have it both ways.
What do you think? Read any good short stories lately?