Short Stories

I have nothing but respect for those that can write a solid short story. When I first started writing, I figured short stories would be something I’d putz away at when I needed a break from working on larger projects. Shorter in my mind meant easier — after all, less words means less work. And while it may be true that the shorter length does equate to less time spent on them overall, I’ve come to believe that short stories can be more difficult than a lengthy piece.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” -Dr Seuss

In order to tell a story, you need to have certain elements: character development, a problem to overcome, a climax, a plot. But to tell a good story, you need more than that. Your characters need to have life to them, the audience needs to care about what happens to them. The problem has to be relatable, at least to an extent that the average reader can identify with it. And your plot needs to engage someone’s interest. In this age of distraction, that alone can prove to be a monumental task. Your writing has to contend with modern giants such as Twitter and Facebook, with cell phones and the Internet, with Top Ten Lists and “You won’t believe what happened next!” articles. These tend to put short stories at an even greater disservice when you consider that the primary medium for short stories today is through the Internet, and that gives your social media platforms and clickbait time sucks the home field advantage.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” -Stephen King

Beyond all of this, though, lies the greatest challenge. Somehow, you have to compact all the depth and thought of a fully fleshed out novel into a fraction of the words. You don’t have chapters to develop a reader’s admiration or disgust for a character, you have paragraphs. Where entire pages could be dedicated to single crucial point of the plot, you may have to make due with a line. But when it’s done properly, the story comes across all the stronger because of that brevity. Instead of having to work through filler and background — no matter how well-intentioned — the reader gets to latch on to what the author truly wants to get across, if for no other reason than that was all the author could fit in.

So to those who ply their trade with short stories, I salute you. And one day, I hope to find that sweet spot for myself between brevity and lengthiness.

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