Friday, June 1, 2012

The Short Story: Dead or Alive?

This is my first attempt at making a real blog post. Most of my others are fiction based or responses to prompts and challenges. With this one I am just going to write. Hopefully I don’t bore you too much.

What happened to the short story in American literature? We all remember growing up reading the classics. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, Washington Irving and so many more, but it seems like there aren’t any new short stories out there. Well, there are…

The problem as I see it is not that there aren’t any new short stories being written, it is that the culture of reading has changed a bit in the United States. Everyone seems to always be looking for that next big hit. The trending novel that everyone has to read. I get that, but as a result I am afraid the way people look at stories has changed.

When people look at short stories today (and this is purely my own opinion) I feel like they don’t look at them as books. Well you know what America… You shouldn’t…but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect for what they are. The short story is not meant to be the next big craze. It is meant to entertain. To give the joy of a satisfying story, with good characters that you can relate to, a strong plot, and do so all in a single sitting. That’s not easy. From a writer’s point of view that can actually be very difficult. To tell an entire story in a limited number of words, and get in everything they need to, one could rip their hair out. When you write, you create an entire world. You create people with individual lives and personalities. There is a lot that goes into it, and to set a limit on how much detail you can use in articulating that world is challenging.

The good news is that the short story is still alive and well. Thanks to the modern technology of eBooks and self-publishing, there are so many amazing indie writers out there making their stories available to the world. However, short stories are not only an art of the indie writer (although they are my personal favorite). Plenty of mainstream writers, such as Stephen King, T.C. Boyle and too many others to name, are still putting out shorter fictions between novels. So check out Amazon, or Barnes and Noble, or whatever your favorite book source is and check out the short story section. Remember…it doesn’t have to be long to be a great. And even if it’s not the next earth-shattering, teen loving novel…it might one day be a classic.