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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Art of the Short Story

There are surprisingly few pointers to be found on the Internet with regard to how to write a powerful short story.  Why is that?

Is it because there is an assumption that because the story is shorter it is therefore easier to write?

Is it because the short story market has been all but dead for several decades and is only now beginning to re-emerge with the life-giving power of ebooks?

Is it because everyone instinctively knows how to write a short story except me? *-)

Writing ANYTHING shorter takes more work, not less, so I can toss out the first reason.  There may well be truth to the fact that the non-existence of a short story market has by necessity shrunk short story teaching resources to the barest few.  As to the last--well I'd like to think there's SOMEONE out there besides me who feels the need to learn more about writing short stories.

I'm not sure why I've had an interest in the short story lately--I think part of it is because, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking that's a good way to experiment with the ebook market and get my feet wet.  I'm also thinking that with the advent of ebooks, we don't have to be dependent on anthologies.  I haven't studied the market so perhaps a reader would not pay for a single short story and still wants to buy in anthology format, but it is something worth trying.

Perhaps I also get frustrated at times at how many months and years it takes to produce a novel.

Here's what I've been able to pull together about the art of the short story.  If you have corrections or additions to my understanding, I'd appreciate your comments.

* Length (duh!) Although actual world count is all over the place.  I've seen length ranges anywhere from 500 words to 50,000, though 500 words to maybe 30,000 seems more prevalent.

* The short story focuses on one main event or period in time.  Perhaps best viewed as a snapshot of a particular place in time.

*  The short story has fewer characters.  Less space, less ability to deal with multiple POV's.  Maybe 2 characters. 

I have a short story in mind that I want to tackle.  It will be a challenge, particularly since my tendency is to write a large cast of characters.  We'll see how it turns out.


Patricia PacJac Carroll said...

Go for it. I think any writing we do is good. Writer's write. : )

Love your quote. Hard is not hopeless.

mycouponbasket said...

Must say that you got some wonderful writing skills. Just keep writting. God bless.

B.K. Jackson said...


Yeah when I read that quote by General Petraus, I knew that was one that applied to all of life.

While I haven't written as much as I wanted to this year, I've already written more words in 2011 then probably the last couple of years combined. So that's something!

B.K. Jackson said...


Thanks for the encouragement!