Short stories are difficult. I love reading them, I don’t love writing them. I sometimes have to write them though, which is probably good for me, but seriously, I admire all the writers who are known for their short stories. And I know some people prefer writing short stories. I am convinced that these people have some kind of special powers. So, what makes short stories so difficult to write?
Most people know the basic beginning, middle, end outline to a story. You then fill in the skeleton of a plot arc with things like, “the group meets a strange wizard” and “the group meets a large lizard”. Then, if you do it right, you get a good story. Usually, in prose, you have as much time as you want to tell your story. One book not enough? Make it a trilogy. Or hey, why not write seven books and a play? With a short story you have limited storytelling space, but you still need a solid plot arc and a satisfactory ending.
I started my whole experiment as a writer with writing plays. Playwriting is amazing for fiction writers, I can’t recommend it enough. I have been told that dialogue is my strongest point as a writer, and I absolutely credit that to my acting and playwriting background. While I was writing plays I wrote lots of scenes and a couple one act plays. One acts are sort of like short stories in that they are the mini version of the regular format, but I found it easier to write short form stories for theatre. You have the senses on your side. The sights and sounds of a stage play contribute heavily to the storytelling, so you can come at the thing from multiple angles, rather than only with words. Also, I tended to write sort of absurd plays and they were well suited to being a little open ended.
I recently wrote a short story for workshop. I don’t know how I feel about it, but of course the minute I turned it in I got an idea I actually liked and am currently working on for my inevitable next assignment. Just the way it works I suppose. So, I’m curious, to the readers and writers out there, do you prefer to read/write short stories or longer pieces?