Short stories are downright amazing. I’m a huge fan of both reading and writing shorter fiction. Short stories are bite-sized and you can get a lot of variety in the form of collections, anthologies, and even author-released omnibuses. Writing short stories is also a great thing for writers of any stripe to explore, both to increase their output and to improve at their craft. But, what makes short stories so great? Well, let’s look at some of the ways.
Small package, huge emotional impact.
Short stories zero in on one moment in time. Whether it’s the deciding moment that someone decides to stand up for what they believe, finding what someone has always wanted, witnessing (or experiencing) death, or playing chess, the stakes are not only important, they’re personal. These intimate close-ups of characters have a deep emotional impact, like a sucker punch to the psyche. While emotional impact is also important in a novel, the short and sweet format of the short story makes it hit the heart that much harder.
Finding new characters (and authors) that you love.
This is probably one of my favorite things about short stories. I’ve discovered so many new authors that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. ‘Raise Your Hand If You’re Dead’ by John Shirley was the first of his works that I ever read and I’ve fallen in love with his work ever since. And that wasn’t the only time a short story led me to enjoying a new author. Reading ‘The Queen’s Garden’ by Kate Elliott completely revolutionized how I thought about fantasy works and how to portray women within them. My life wouldn’t be the same without these stories and I’m grateful that I was given the opportunity to read them.
Short stories are also ideal for expanding on new characters in a particular world, such as in the ‘Welcome to Bordertown’ collection, which remains one of my favorite urban fantasy anthologies as well as introducing me to the Bordertown that my dad used to read about when he was my age. Interestingly enough, short fiction also introduced me to the first asexual character I’d ever seen in fiction, Tarma, who is the main character of Mercedes Lackey’s Vows and Honor Trilogy and started off in a series of short stories.
Short stories fit into a busy schedule.
I’m the world’s worst about filling up my day to the point of not having any free time at all. Luckily, short stories can be finished in a single sitting, such as my 15-minute break at work or while I’m waiting for the oven timer to go off. Flash fiction is even better for this, because it’s a story that is told in 1,000 words or less. Novels are great for the long term and I usually have at least one novel that I’m reading at any given time. But it’s hard to beat a quick shot of storytelling goodness that you don’t have to invest a considerable chunk of time on.
There’s a lot of other reasons why short stories are great, but these are some of my top ones. Do you think short stories are awesome? Share your top reasons below in the comments!