Alternatively titled : In Which Internet Research into Short Stories Makes me Despair, Just a Little
Part 1 of 3
So I had Steven test-drive my intended post, as I almost always do. He said, “I love you. Break this into smaller posts so your readers don’t go insane.”
I cannot argue with his logic, so this is part one of three.
- Part one includes the background, the disclaimer, and why I think this is worth reading.
- Part two includes what I could find on official short story definitions
- Part three includes what I like to see in MY short stories, and some pointed questions to try and fuel further discussion.
So there I was, on the internet, looking up information about short stories.
See, our writing group – Saucy Ink — just published our first book of short stories, and we’re working on developing the stories for the second. You’d think that would mean I’d already done a lot of research into “what a short story is”, but in truth, I mostly looked up some very factual rules, cross-referenced in a few places to check for validity, and made up the rest.
Turns out, my definition isn’t precisely accurate according to the rest of the internet.
As a matter of fact, the term “Short Story” is so sacrosanct that I felt the need to include this next section, just in case this post somehow makes it out into the general internet audience and into the hands of a true short story aficionado.
I don’t usually add a disclaimer to my posts. In general, I think folks pretty much understand that my blog posts contain my opinions. However, I’m going to be doing some defining and poking at things that folks don’t often like poked at, so I’m going to go ahead and include some disclaimers here, so nobody thinks I’m getting too big for my britches.
As of this writing, I have never sold a scene, short story, novella, or novel. Feel free to disregard my opinion as unfounded or worthless if you’d like.
I read, write, and love fantasy fiction above all other kinds of writing. My opinions are going to be based heavily on that preference, and if you happen to think that speculative fiction is inherently stupid or that the only true short fiction is literary fiction then I can guarantee we’re not going to see eye to eye on this one. That’s fine.
Further damning my credibility here, I strongly prefer the novel format in my reading. This will become obvious through the post, but it’s worth noting that I am not a primary consumer of short fiction and I rarely seek it out when looking for reading material. I know that there is a following of short story aficionados who love and treasure the traditional or modern short story format just as much as I love my talking unicorn stories, and we’d find each other’s favorite stories just as repellent as one might expect. That’s perfectly normal (and wonderful. How boring a world we’d have, if everyone liked only the same things?)
I reserve the right to change my opinion at any point in time.
The below “definitions” are based on what kinds of stories I like to read, and which appeal to me. My opinion on this is no more valuable than yours, or the guy next to you, or the girl next to him.
So! If your objections to what I write below fall into any of the above categories, feel free to still comment about how wrong I am, but know that I’m already admitting all these things, and yet I still think these blog posts are worth writing.
Why Bother Writing These Posts?
So that was a pretty massive disclaimer. I’ve just spent over 300 words convincing you that I can’t possibly be trusted in what I’m about to say, which is admittedly ridiculous.
Despite all that, and despite the fact that I know I’ll probably offend a ton of very educated and intelligent people with my opinions on short stories, I still want to write this post.
I want to write this post because I love reading, and always have. While other girls my age were decorating their walls with Backstreet Boys posters and going on clothing shopping sprees, I begged my mom to take me to Half Price Books, where I’d spend a few hours carefully adding up every penny and applying them to the largest number of the most interesting fantasy books I could afford.
I love reading, guys.
I really, really do.
There are books I’ve read that have touched my heart and left behind a better person than was there before. I sometimes joke that I was raised by a pack of wild books, and it’s only half-kidding.
I read because I love stories, and I write for the very same reason.
So yes, my little backwater understanding of “what stories work for me” may not be in the same universe as the folks who judge short story competitions or even the guy sitting in the cubicle next to me … but maybe it is.
Maybe there are more people like me out there, just as hungry for the same kinds of stories that I love to write and read.
I’m writing this for them … and I’m writing this for me, too.
Because even with that wall of disclaimer text above, I think my opinion is still pretty valid. If you write something and call it a short story, and it doesn’t fit my definition, I’m not going to deny it or tell you how wrong you are.
I just probably don’t want to read it, and I think that’s a perfectly okay stance to have.