I love sewing. I lay out the fabric on my sewing table, cut out the pattern pieces, pin them and start sewing. Pretty soon a whole bunch of flat shapes are put together into a garment that I can wear out in the world. In the space of an afternoon, I have a pair of harem pants, a long chemise or a full, flowy skirt.
Writing short stories is, for me, much the same. It’s instant writing gratification. (Okay, not “instant”, but you know what I mean.) When the spirit moves me, I can whip out a draft of a short story in a day or two. I’ll spend a few more days revising, and suddenly, there it is. One little adventure, complete and ready to read. I love the precision, the simplicity. A novel requires a commitment from the reader, a commitment that is different with every person who picks up the book, but which is lengthy nonetheless. A short story doesn’t ask the same commitment. It’s easily and quickly consumed, yet the best ones leave their mark the same way a novel can. How cool is that?
A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to talk about my favorite short stories for SF Signal’s Mind Meld feature. I had such a good time talking about them, because the two stories I decided to share were two that had stayed with me for years. Despite being only a few pages long, they’d contained characters who became real to me, and events that stirred my soul. The details that make novels memorable are the same things that make short stories work.
So today, tell me your favorite short stories, and what makes them special to you.