Short stories are an under-appreciated art in post-postmodern literature. It isn’t that we don’t know how to write them well; rather, we don’t know how to honor their brevity. Ironic in a drive-through microwave culture, that, as I often hear readers say they don’t enjoy short stories because they aren’t long enough. It isn’t that they aren’t compelling, aren’t as well-developed as their longhaul cohorts, or don’t accomplish as much in significantly less pages. Short fiction often loses out because we want more.
Enjoying something so much as to want an extra scoop is a great problem to have. I’m curious, though, is it that short stories are too brief, or is there a deeper, more provocative reason that they get under our skin?
I think a well-written short story pushes us to actively participate more in the plot progression, to engage more emotionally and psychologically than most novels do. Without flowery prose to gently seduce us, starkness forces us bare, raw, and receptive to bring more of ourselves to the table, without preamble, without presupposition. As well, they end with us breathless, panting, craving more–because every encounter that truly sates instills deeper want.That’s part of what makes them so powerful.
Literarily speaking, with short stories, we have to be ready for the good stuff–juicy, unabashed movement–from the hook, on. Posthaste we get down and dirty, rubbing against exactly what we need right there, between the words, among the undercurrents. For that reason, short stories require faith in the moment, without fretting what comes next. We have to be willing to give ourselves over to that momentum and trust wherever it takes us.
I love short stories. To me they are poetry’s deep sigh. I love them so much that throughout my college writing curriculum, I was devoted to perfecting them as my form of choice. That’s why I enjoy Decadent’s The Edge series. For one, they are sexy as hell, and they bring it, every time.
So yes, the short form requires more of a commitment, a leap of faith. Risk it. Dive into the fling, knowing the foreplay and after-cuddling are on you to provide.
Check out my The Edge short, Traveler Through Darkness, and let me know what you risked to be with Tarik and Wo.