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April 14, 2010



"For me, the short story generally conveys an existential situation, rather than a fully-fledged narrative plot."

This is a fine explanation that works well for me. I believe this is why I much prefer short fiction to novels. Narrative plots tend towards an excess that I would rather intuit or imagine. Besides, I suppose I'm not an enormous fan of stories.

But in short fiction, stories are different, they aren't stories so much as feelings and sense. They give my mind wiggle room. This wiggle room helps me empathize. It is the existential situation that I am after; I can empathize profoundly with it.

Narratives and plots feel strategic. The wholly new place in a characters life, as you put it, feels false, convoluted and strategical. I cannot empathize with this. Perhaps its because I have never had a strategy myself. I go on in life, letting events change me and learning what I can the hardest way possible. I never have tried to coerce myself into being this or that... and when I read a novel, I usually feel its staged. It leaves me feeling alien.

Excellent ideas you have here.

Mark Snyder

Goodness, looking forward to seeing you read from the collection in May here in New York! Happy publication!!


I think this particular definition of story is perhaps too focused on the self-consciously literary. Detective and science fiction stories tend to be much more plot focused than character focused, though I would agree that even genre short fiction tends to be focused more on the existential moment. I think, though, that the short story is much more robust and dominant in genre fiction than it is in literary fiction these days.

cleo birdwell

but this blog is about literary fiction.


Cleo -

Which is why it is sometimes necessary to point out the differences between literary fiction and other forms of fiction.

Lou Thomas

Short stories compared to novels are like songs compared to albums. Both can be satisfying if they're of a high standard.

There's a great competition for aspiring novelists here: http://www.wbqonline.com/feature.do?featureid=505


Particularly at a time when so much literary fiction is drawing on science fictions (Solar, Never Let Me Go, etc.), it strikes me as behind the times and a bit clueless to continue to insist on such a hard distinction between the two.


Lovely post... speaking as someone who only recently came around to loving the short form, don't give up hope on those codgers who dismiss it!

E Chao

The length of a piece of writing is almost inconsequential. A story is to be judged by its telling: Some tell a story best with more words, some with less. As a reader, I love both the novel and the short story. As a writer, one form may come more naturally than the other. I never cared about the shape of my mug as long as the drink is enjoyable.

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