The Long and Short of It

I've written three short stories, and none of them were any good.

I don't like short stories. I've never been very fond of reading them, and I've never been very fond of writing them. It's why I don't enter many contests; most writing contests are for short stories, and I just do not want to spend my time writing them.

I've never been able to really figure out why I don't like them. Mostly, it's because they're too short. As soon as I got to know the characters, the story was over. If there was a story. When you're clipping the word count like that, it's difficult to make a comprehensive overview of a decent three-piece story. Maybe it can be done when you're writing for third-graders, but short word counts coupled with literary magnificence result in poor stories.

Either it doesn't finish, or it doesn't end, but, in my mind, they don't give you enough to time to really fall in love with the characters and feel their pain. Very, very good writers can do it, it's true, but at what cost? At the cost of story, at the cost of a satisfying ending.

I'm not against short stories. I'm not against people writing them, or people reading them. I just don't want to be one of those people. I need long stories, stories that allow for both literary genius and cunning plots that result in fulfilling endings.

However, that said, I will note that short stories have proved useful to me as an exercise. If you can't write it short, how could you ever claim to write it long? This is a statement I should take to heart, especially seeing how anti-short-story I appear above. For this I do believe. The best practice for directors is to contain a story in a 30-second commercial. The best practice for novelists is to contain their story within a limited word count. Goodness, we're all going to have to do it someday in that dreaded query!

So here I be. I have lambasted the short story, only to blog myself into a mortifying position opposite of where I began. You can't have them short and be stories, too! was my cry. To which I find myself replying, Yet you can't write them long if you can't write them short!

I will put it to the people: What is your position on short stories, if you have one? (Or do you think I'm ridiculous for having one?) Too short to be worthwhile or a worthwhile exercise? Or just worth the contest cash? Let me know!

Didn't mean to go on a rant here... Sorry...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love short stories. I get what you're saying though, that it can be hard to take a storyline and condense it into something that still can pull the reader in while being believable. For me, I've had problems with reading some romantic short stories where the guy met the girl, they fell in love, and got married over the course of several pages. That was kind of suspending disbelief, some.

And it could be that you're just a long-story writer, and that's ok, too.