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, which can sometimes get the point over better than a novel. Take Ernest Hemingway’s six-word masterpiece: For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn.
Those six words carry so much potency because we, the readers, are forced to speculate as to what has happened. Hemingway 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 you know what? It wasn’t necessary. Six words were all that needed to convey the same message. 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 readers 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 in which 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 or fewer characters. 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 under fifty pages.
A half-hour comedy will top out at twenty-five pages at the very most. So don’t tell me you don’t like short stories. J
Putting on my car salesman’s hat, what do I have to do to immerse 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. Want a few author recommendations? I’m happy to oblige. There are some great collections out there, such as: Twisted by Jeffery Deaver, Black Evening by David Morrell, and Hardly Knew Her by Laura Lippman, to name just a few. If there are authors out there that you love, then they’ve more than likely written a short story that will blow your mind. I’m going to keep on making the case for them so you just need to give in and do as I say. It’s for the best.