"The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line." ~Joanna Field

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A short response

So a teacher of mine (or past teacher? I'm not sure if this is the last we get of her? anyway: ) posted an interesting... post... about her relation with the short story. Read it here. It got me thinking about my relationship with short stories, and I started to write a Facebook response, but it got too long. So I thought I'd share it here.

Alex makes some good points on the thought of short stories. Their very nature can be annoying to people. They're just so dammed short! And yeah, that can seem like a silly complaint. I mean, it's a short story for a reason, right? But if you're not in the right place for one, it's like a kick to the teeth.

"Oh, good characters, neat idea for a plot annnnd-- wait, it's over? What?"

As I said, good points.

I'm on the other side of the spectrum, however. I have a hard time settling into novels anymore (though school may have been a big factor in that as I've devoured two novels in the last three days of being off school for the summer (though I slept through one day...). Short stories have kept me well fed for a few years now.

I didn't always like them though. In fact, I used to be so against them that I dragged my writing out into longer stories simply because I didn't want to be a short story author. Enter Letters Unsent, Letters Unwritten (or LuLu) and I started to see the appeal of shorter stories. Now I have a good number of anthologies in my collection and I have to say that I am all for them.

But what is drawing me to them? The short nature of the story is still frustrating to me, I still often find myself at a loss at the end, wondering where the rest of the story went, or feeling I've been abandoned.
And it isn't a lack of time that is making me read them. When you read a three inch thick paper-back of back-to-back short stories in a sitting, it may as well be a novel.

It is the very brevity of the stories. When you only have ten pages to get a point across, there is little to no room for flowery language. Only things of great importance are mentioned. Even if their importance is only to make you think that other things are not so important.

My interest in shorts may come from my found love of writing them. The author gets to play with a story that size. Where is the harm in writing an ultrashort? (varyingly defined as less than 1000, 100, 10 words. ) I can put out 1000 words in a half hour trying to get a paper done.

There is no fear of getting it perfect. You don't like it? Toss it. You've wasted nothing.
So you get to read something just a little more raw. If you don't like it, you've wasted nothing. Ten minutes.

So I'm glad she's getting back to short stories. A cut up look at the world(that is, could be, would be, was, never will be, isn't, etc) is a nice mirror to the daily life that plagues so many people this side of the globe.

Shorts are a zap to the brain of a new thought, new way of seeing. Easily digested, like precut cubes of meat. And like precut cubes, they shouldn't be the only thing in your diet. But they can become a staple, and can become a delicious alternative to the chewy steak-like portions of Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities and Moby Dick.

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