Instant Writing Gratification


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.


8 comments to Instant Writing Gratification

  • Night of the Fell Furbies! Oh, no, wait, that was one of mine that I never tried to pub because I figured I couldn’t use the Furbie name and didn’t wanna bother changing it. 😉 Though it is special because I wrote it as a final project in my Advanced English class that I got to read to everyone at the end. Everybody loved it.

    Honestly, there weren’t too many I can actually point to and say they were special to me, at least not in the fantasy/sci-fi field. I was too into novels to bother with short fiction.

    However, there were two shorts I read in high school that were particularly interesting to me and I still remember to this day. One was The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and the other was The Carnival by Michael Fedo. Both lottery stories with dark endings, but with all the other junk in those lit books those two really stood out.

    Other than that, I always liked Poe. Telltale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, The Raven (though that’s more poetry it still tells a story). These all appealed to my twisted side.

  • Like Daniel, I’d have to put The Lottery and The Cask of Amontillado on my list.

    Here are a couple more:

    History Lesson by Arthur C. Clarke
    Unworth of the Angel by Stephen R. Donaldson
    The Conquerer Worm by Stephen R. Donaldson

  • That’s supposed to be Unworthy of the Angel

  • Guin

    “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. They made us read it at school as an example of non-linear storytelling, but it stuck with us because it was so. Darned. Creepy. Most short stories don’t stick with me too strongly, but that one did.

    “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury is another I really liked. I guess I like creepy. 😛 It sticks with me longer, anyway.

  • Oh, I like creepy, too. 😀 “A Rose For Emily” is the only piece of William Faulkner’s writing that doesn’t make me want to murder the man. Not really Faulkner’s fault – more an issue with my ENG 102 professor in college, but Faulkner gets the blame.

    “The Cask of Amontillado” may be my favorite story of all time. I read it for a podcast back at RavenCon, but so far it hasn’t been posted anywhere to listen to.

  • “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Beautiful, horrific, utterly memorable. I read it twenty-five years ago, at least, and there are still passages that I can recite from memory.

  • While I have to agree with the others above about the lottery and Poe’s works, Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” always stayed with me too. It stayed enough that I rewrote it for one lit class in college from the devil’s perspective. Wish I knew where that was these days.

  • AWere

    Well, these are more novellas than short stories, but I love “Rage” and “The Long Walk” by Stephen King.