This month two nice people (somewhere) each bought one of my 99 cent short stories. That excites me more than the fifty plus novels that others bought during August. I’ve told you before that the short story is, in my opinion, the finest form of literature. And it is also the most difficult form of writing to be done well. Anyone can write forty or fifty pages and then just cut it off and call it a “short story” but that misses the point. A short story is much like a movie script. It actually has three acts. The first is setting the stage. Then there is the development, and finally a twist of some sort at the end that leaves the reader thinking about what he or she has just read. The ending doesn’t have to be “happy” or deliberately “sad” but it should have some poignant meaning to it.
As one of my top-ten cool guys, T.S. Eliot, wrote, “When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.”
You go, T.S.! In a short story it is necessary, in a limited amount of space, to accomplish a lot of work. It is true that in novels, my own included, the story tends to sprawl and perhaps take off in tangents and those are difficult to bring back to a satisfactory conclusion. So why are short stories not more popular with the public? I’m not sure. I guess, given the mind of the American populace, they think that they are not getting their money’s worth if they don’t get a lot of words per dollar.
That’s a shame. Nevertheless, I am grateful to those two brave people who plunked down their 99 cents for two of my short stories this month. It made me pleased and happy and that is a blessing I probably don’t deserve.