Musing on Mansfield

‘Katherine Mansfield’s claim on out attention rests on the subtlety, emotional depth and originality of her gifts as a short-story writer. [She] brings her imaginative gifts to bear on many kinds of lives in quite disparate settings with an artist’s feeling for the angle and light that would bring her stories to life.’

KatherinemansfieldIt goes without saying that any writer would revel in such an introduction to their work and this is but a snippet of praise for Katherine Mansfield – ‘widely regarded as a writer who helped to create the modern short story’ – in an anthology of her work, which I am just about to read.

You’ve got to love second-hand bookshops and even better – your local Co-op, when it has a table bulging with such books by its tills. If every supermarket did the same, and replaced sweets at the check-outs with books… Well, a thought for another day perhaps.

Anyway, as I embark upon a year of crafting my own collection of short stories (and poems), it’s only sensible to seek inspiration from a few of the greats, and I’m hoping this particular collection will do just that. Short stories weave their own sort of magic and have less space in which to do it, so I think there’s an extra skill in being able to produce shorter fiction.

Points to consider:

  • How much description is too much in a short story?Q
  • How quickly should the pace be set?
  • Are myriad characters better, or are fewer preferable?
  • Plotlines… how complicated should they be? There is the risk, is there not, of cramming too much into a small space.

I’m thinking off the top of my head here and of course, a short story can be long enough to become a novella. It can be anything from 1,000 words to 4,000, six or 8,000 words or more.

Another good question then:

  • At what point do you wind it up?

Well, a story, I believe, will usually tell you when it’s done and if in doubt, wind it up, leave it a while and come back and edit it. Perspective and a little time away always helps.

As I say – I’m musing on Mansfield right now. We’ll see how it goes…

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