Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Mind-Bending Universe of Short Stories

I came across this post on one of the many writing blogs I follow and I just had to say something.

I really admire writers who can do short stories, or at least those that do them well. I certainly can't. I've tried writing short stories fairly regularly (usually for about five days every 4-6 years), and I just can't do it! I always have too many thoughts and ideas to fit into anything less than about 80,000 words. It takes a lot of skill to create good characters and an engaging plot in so few words.

On the other hand, I often find myself turned off to short stories because they leave me wanting more. I have an appetite for round characters that not only have a history but that I can see growing (and not in the blink of an eye). I like multifaceted plots that I can really invest myself in; I find the plots of short stories are either rushed or trivial compared to long-form literature.

EXAMPLE: One of my favorite books of all time is Sabriel, first book in the Abhorsen Chronicles, by Garth Nix. So far there are three books in the series, and there are rumors of a fourth in the works. However, Nix has also written a short story based in the same world (the story is called Across the Wall); while I enjoyed reading Across the Wall, I felt like it ended just as things were staring to get going. There was all the potential of a full novel and I was disappointed that I didn't get to see it develop.

So, what do you all think of short stories? Like them more or less than long-form? Why?


  1. I feel the exact same way. I try short stories. I get about two-thirds into them, at most, then lost interest or train of thought or realize it's turning into a novel. I enjoy complex worlds and plots and characters, which I'm sure is some of it.

    I can read short stories in print anthologies, no problem. I can't read them in full online, at least in one sitting. Whether that's because of the length and screen, or because webzines tend to select the types of stories that don't interest me, I don't know.

  2. Thank you so much for posting a link to my story! I was wondering, though: am I one of the writers you admire, or one of the writers "on the other hand"?