When I turned my gaze away from journalism and poetry to writing short fiction, I came across an anthology of short stories edited by Isabel Allende. In the introduction to the anthology, Allende said that if a short story did not grab her within the first few paragraphs, it would not work as short fiction.
While I don’t agree whole-heartedly with Allende’s observation, I’ll say that short fiction is condensed and requires powerful writing. When we write short stories, we don’t have the space to introduce lineages of characters or complex plots. It’s not the format for including loads of description or delving deeply into a character’s emotional palette.
The short stories that work for me have odd twist in them, especially with flash fiction, which is a story told in 500 words or less. Allende is correct in that the lead paragraph and the final paragraph must leave impressions on the reader. You don’t want to start out slow and start meandering. The character’s call to action takes place in the first or second paragraph. You want to lead the reader into the story quickly and then keep him or her nibbling until they take the Final literary bite.
This brings me to the point of my essay which is five reasons to write short stories. But first let me tell you what short fiction is not. Short fiction is not a short novel. Short fiction is not a jumping off point for novel writing per se. Short fiction is not a lazy writer’s craft. And short fiction doesn’t necessarily pay the bills unless you are lucky enough to land your stories in a bigger name literary journal that pays authors for their stories. Most agents will tell you that they don’t represent short story collections.
5 Reasons to Write Short Stories
- Taking up the challenge helps authors to hone into what matters for the character and the story. Authors learn how to get to the point, use less words, and create on their toes.
- If a writer can land publication in literary journals and anthologies on a regular basis, this helps land a contract with an agent and subsequently impresses book publishers and editors.
- Short stories can be transformed into podcasts and uploaded on Vimeo and YouTube then showcased on author websites and blogs.
- Writing shorter fiction allows a writer to exercise their chops without having to write another novel. I like to take a break from writing novels and tackle the short form because I see my results more quickly.
- Sometimes short story characters and situations spark the next novel or screenplay.
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My background is in journalism, fiction-writing, teaching workshops, astrology, and other metaphysical topics. I was an arts journalist for over 25 years.