“A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick—a couple thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.” –Neil Gaiman.
Many people have said things to me such as, “I don’t like reading short stories. I need the depth and the character development that happens in a novel.” Although I can certainly appreciate that, my response is usually something like, “Although I really enjoy a filet mignon Oscar or seared Ahi tuna entrée, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the canapés! Munching a bit of caviar on a dollop of crème fraiche, with a bit of hard-boiled egg and green onion, is a marvelous way to sip champagne!”
So it’s more a matter of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Each form of writing brings its own special pleasures. Who can argue against falling headlong into another world in a novel that simply transports us countries or planets or galaxies away? How can we not revel in getting to know a character so thoroughly that he or she becomes a living, breathing person who haunts our sleeping and waking moments?
But what about that fine painting or photograph hanging on your wall—the one that captures the light or the emotion or the mind-set of that special day you’ll never forget? A good short story is like that. It gives us a tantalizing glimpse into that other world, seizing a moment in time to which we may return again and again. The mysterious stranger with whom we locked eyes at a party, the extraordinary sunrise that redeemed a sleepless night, the brief but sweet kiss that lingers on the lips—such is the short story.
As a writer, the short story is a way to “cleanse my palate” between forays into novel-writing. It’s my attempt at legerdemain—not a cheap parlor trick but true sleight-of-hand. Can I convince you of the reality of these protagonists and their struggles in ten pages? Can I startle you with an ending you didn’t see coming? Can I provoke a laugh or a tear in the time it takes you to brew your morning coffee?
I found writing my new collection of short stories to be immensely rewarding. I hope reading them will be equally pleasurable for you.
You can pre-order the Kindle version here. It will be released on September 30. The paperback edition will also be published soon.