Short Stories?

I’m terrible at writing short stories. Truly. I’ve always been the sort to dump several thousand words on a page every evening, straggling to the end of a story a few months down the road. Then, a year later, it gets wrangled and trimmed into something manageably novel-length. Attempting to world-build and character-create in a short story format is not my strength.

I wonder if short-story writing is better suited to those who outline? If one is a “pantser”, maybe the writing tends to be too long-winded to fit within the guidelines of a short story? I’m not sure. I just know that I’ve never managed to cram the vision from my imagination onto a few short pages.

I recently started reading my nearly-forgotten collection of O. Henry’s short stories, and found myself enjoying his tongue-in-cheek humor and nearly patented ending twists. Then there are the Edgar Allan Poe stories, the ones that were dark and foreboding and creepily unforgettable. I also have half a dozen volumes of fairy tale collections, some separated by author (Hans Christian Anderson), some by cultural origin (African, German, etc). They have all been re-read countless times, but without any success at any sort of imitation.

Do you know of some other good short-story authors or collections? Do you find it easy to come up with an abbreviated arc for a short story? 

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4 comments on “Short Stories?

  1. amberskyef says:

    I’ve had three short stories published, but I am a novelist by nature. I struggle more with short stories. But I do outline and had to outline those short stories. For my novels, I mostly outline during the revision process so I don’t find myself having to do ten million edits.

    Like you, I enjoy Edgar Allen Poe. I also enjoy the stories of the short fiction writers I publish in my literary magazine. But I can guarantee you 90% of the time when I start a short story, it often turns into a novel.

    • Rae says:

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one! It’s so hard for me to keep from taking a short piece and turning it into a long one. I dislike having to reign myself in just so I can call it a short story.

  2. It’s much easier for me to come up with a novel-length plot. With short stories, everything has to happen so much more quickly. I took a course on writing short stories some time ago, and it helped me quite a bit. I’ve learned that it’s something I have to learn to do and to practice at. I’ve been gradually getting better at it.

    I personally gravitate towards horror short stories, so my collection recommendations would be in that genre. Just After Sunset by Stephen King gave me quite a bit of inspiration. In the fantasy genre, The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin was a very good read.

    • Rae says:

      Thank you so much for the recommendations! And you are so right about practicing on the short stories…I just need to start writing!

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