Short Stories

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The Best Short Stories and Short Story Conventions

Short stories form the backbone of almost any literature and creative writing class, either because students read or write them. Either way, they are analyzed–sometimes to the point of death, but we hope today’s literature students and teachers are moving past such tendencies.

Of the myriad of short stories that exist, classic and contemporary, what are some that should belong in any canon? In particular, discuss contemporary stories or collections not getting attention right now, that should be. To go along with this, what are some universal themes, character traits, or tropes that make a short story "work" better than it would if it were written in longer form? Do some topics or themes lend themselves better to short form, and why?

  • I tend to favor the practicality of the short story for inducement to entertain, either personally or formally. Two titles in particular exemplify this viewpoint: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. As you mention, the commentary on social norms that they bring to the fore have been exhaustively analysed. But, I think that they serve the greater purpose of shedding light on the quirks of society that are overlooked or simply ignored in the haste of the day. Furthermore, they can provide a conducive outlet for what would otherwise manifest in cold or violent indifference. At the very least, the short story can be an entry point into much lengthier and broader literature or a welcome reprieve from it. – L:Freire 5 years ago
  • The short story, the ancient art that we knew, is still written and written abundantly, but the lack of follow-up may make us think it is an art of extinction, and no longer exists only in the form of simple flashes here and there. In fact, I have been able to read in the past few months a large number of story collections, with different qualities and atmospheres. Enough on the things the writer wants to point out, and let the reader complete in his mind what he thinks the writer may have wanted to write. – rosejone 5 years ago
  • I personally never got too into short stories. I've always devoured novels, and all my book/article ideas seem to come in "long form." Seriously, I was telling people at age ten that my 50-page "masterpieces" were "novels." That said, there are a few short stories that have stuck with me for years, and if they can win me over, they can win anyone over. :) I wanted to know other people's opinions so I could try some more short stories. – Stephanie M. 5 years ago
  • I think if you're going to list some outstanding short stories, you can't go past 'Recitatif' by Toni Morrison! It demands the reader to judge their own assumptions about stories and storytelling. It is thus self-aware while simultaneously beautifully crafted, with strong characters and complex themes. It is this sense of completion yet ample room for the reader to draw their own conclusions that make it so successful as a short story. A short story must be satisfying as well as food for rumination, which 'Recitatif' certainly is. – bruna 2 years ago
  • Having just completed a college course on short story workshop, I feel like I have at least some qualification to speak on this topic. The short story is an interesting medium of art because the goal is to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and presumably, end, in a matter of pages. Despite the shorter length than a novel, I would say that writing a short story might in some cases be harder to write than a full-length novel because you have to pay more attention to detail; you have a limited amount of space to get through all the main points of your story, and every line needs to count. In some cases, you are basically writing a miniture novel without the freedom and conventions of a novel. – Sierra Refit 2 years ago
  • Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected is exceptional. The Penguin-published collection of short stories is written for adults, but is just as engaging, exciting and often as funny as his beloved children’s books. Dahl’s short stories all have a twist ending, which is more often than not crucial to a successful short story. But the twist does not leave readers on a cliff hanger; it reveals something unknown about the protagonist, something that makes sense to the readers and results in a fitting resolution to the narrative. It is this - the creation of character - that Dahl masters. The ability to achieve complexity of character morals and motive in only several pages is admiral, and I believe the single most important skill for writing a good short story. – Tom4 2 years ago

Significance of the Short Story

A look at the medium of short stories and the reasons behind why they should be regarded as highly as the novel. This article would look at several famous short stories or short story writers and the influence they’ve had on writers throughout history (including the influence they’ve had on the medium of the novel). It might also be helpful to discuss the status of the short story–how it’s risen or declined in popularity through time.

  • A very interesting topic, but fairly daunting and possibly a little too broad. For whoever's attempting this though: would be interesting to bring in Maupassant, Poe, Hardy, Kipling, etc, and if possible, tie it right back to our contemporary times, with a little nod to Alice Munro. – Matchbox 8 years ago