Short stories: The promise & danger…

diamond-33086_1280“The short story is incredibly challenging – especially as a tradition or a convention. It’s one of those forms which requires… well, you have to be a gem-cutter in a way.”

Thank you, Junot Diaz, a novelist and short story writer who, in speaking to The New Yorker’s senior editor recently, made it quite clear that for him, short stories can be irksome.

I, myself, used to avoid them, then slowly came back round to the idea again and have managed to produce some which I quite like, but it always does tend to be when you’re sailing merrily along, that the short story decides to remind you who’s boss.

I’m currently attempting to tie up my short story for October (I’m writing one a month), which for a while, I thought was never going to materialise. Thankfully though, once I caught the whisper of an idea, the words took hold and a story began to reveal itself to me. As usual, said story has subsequently taken a few twists and turns from the path I thought I was on, and I’ve gone from definitely not liking this one and not seeing how it fits with the rest, to slowly coming around to its merits and wanting to delve in deeper, but I quite like it now. It’s not my favourite, and editing may tear it apart, but it’s a result at least.

What is it with short stories that makes us so pedantic and stressed about the process? (or is it just me?!)stress-111425_1280

Back to Junot.

“The slightest default shows in a short story, as it doesn’t in a novel.

“The promise and danger of a short story is that it can be perfect. The promise and danger of a novel is that it can never be perfect.”

Ah, yes, that might be it. Such is the short story, that the reader can whizz through it; can stop and savour EVERY SINGLE WORD at their leisure and then go back and read it again if they particularly want to pick it apart – at no real inconvenience to their time. It’s a snippet of a novel and it can be put much more easily under the magnifying glass, so the expectation is… it had better be good.

No – perfect.

It’s a challenge every writer faces, and quantity doesn’t necessarily mean a writer is more relaxed about the process. Junot obviously isn’t. He’s written a fair few short stories and he hopes never to have to write one again! He does, however, like the fact that the reader can “make decisions as to what the book is” when reading a short story collection.

books-20167_1280“Is a short story collection a short story collection, or is it a novel? The reader can make (these) decisions…”

I’m working on a short story collection right now, and I said recently to a friend that they all, so far, interlink a little and could, therefore, work as a weird, dysfunction novel – or the short story collection I intend them to be.


Reader, if I get them finished to my satisfaction and (wonder of wonders), if they should ever be published anywhere – I give you leave to decide…

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One response to “Short stories: The promise & danger…

  1. Pingback: End of September | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

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