One of the first stories that come to mind when I think of short stories is Somerset Maugham’s Appointment in Samara. The story of a man who thinks he has fled death only to realise later where he is heading to, is exactly where he’ll meet death.
Short stories and novels are as different as day and night. This holds true for both, writing as well as reading. If we talk about writing short stories, the entire experience is different. The plot could span over a few hours or a few years, but the number of words is limited. Owing to limited number of words, the author needs to practice clever usage of words in order to fit an entire day’s events in a page.
Some of the best short story authors the world has read are Ernest Hemingway, Rabindranath Tagore, Roald Dahl, Edgar Allan Poe, R K Narayan, O ‘Henry, Somerset Maugham, Jhumpa Lahiri and many more. Though in recent times, fewer authors have been famous for their short stories, Jeffery Archer has written twelve books of short stories from 1980 till now. This year, he is coming out with his latest collection of short stories, Tell Tale.
Since the art of short story writing is to tell a lot in very few words, it filters out those who can express only in lengthy prose. Short stories are loved by suspense writers because it is easier to keep the reader occupied. Since each story can very well be read in one go, creating a build-up and then a climax, works well for this mode of story-telling.
I would like to quote Fitzgerald here. “Find the key emotion; this may be all you need know to find your short story.” A short story could be about a minuscule event but if the emotion has been identified, it makes for a good read which leaves the reader more aware and awake.
Another interesting thing about short stories is how they have the ability to play with the reader’s mind. Most often, short stories end with a revelation regarding the main plot.
Short stories are also a must-read form for story-telling, especially for those who wish to take up writing seriously. Reading and writing short stories makes one a better writer. One learns about plot development, characterisation, build-up, climax and every small nuance of story-telling in a few thousand words. Once perfected, writing novels can be easier.