Why You Should Read (and Write) Short Stories

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My creative writing class mainly left me with embarrassment about how many times I use commas, capitalization, and italics. But it also left me with a serious love of short stories. I read some amazing stories in my class before we started workshopping our own. Most of us spend the majority of our energy focusing on novels. Yet gaining exposure to short stories made me realize how much the underrated medium offers to both readers and writers alike.

A Writer’s Perspective

Shorter pieces give you the freedom to experiment with your writing style. In my class, I wrote a story in second-person from a male perspective. Pretty far out there for me. That was a narrative that I didn’t have enough courage to flesh out into a full novel, but a short story allowed me to try it out.

Writing short stories also helps you develop longer pieces. Plenty of authors start out writing short stories and extend particularly gripping narratives into novels. You can sample different plot ideas and learn which one captures your interest the most.

Or you can keep it short. Once you’ve completed a story, you can submit it for publication to literary magazines and anthologies. No agent needed. It’s a great way to gain writing credentials and/or potential payment. That being said, many literary magazines charge reading fees. I recommend submitting to the ones without reading fees first. John Fox and 

A Reader’s Viewpoint

You gain a taste of the writer’s style. Lots of novelists started out writing short stories or published short stories between novels: Stephen King, Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, the list goes on. Reading a short story from an author gives you a sense of the author’s voice.

Short stories offer the chance to enjoy a story without a major time investment. If you don’t have the time to finish an entire novel, the short story still gives you the satisfaction of watching a character grow and allowing a plot to fully develop.

Some of my favorite stories include “Love and Hydrogen” by Jim Shepherd, “Speech Sounds” by Octavia Butler, and “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events” by Kevin Moffett – but I’d love to hear your recommendations as well.

What are some of your favorites? Have you tried writing short stories before, and have they helped you write longer pieces?

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2 thoughts on “Why You Should Read (and Write) Short Stories

  1. I love writing novels but I love writing shorter pieces even more. I’ve come to enjoy working on serials that are composed of roughly 13K-15K words but all tie back into an over arching plot. I feel like there is more freedom in shorter pieces but you also are forced to look at what is the most important details are to avoid meandering.

    1. Right? Short stories allow you to be more experimental because we don’t have to lengthen the plot to sustain a whole novel. Serials are another innovative way to keep a story going! I haven’t tried it myself, but it’s great that it gives you freedom to end a plot at any time while giving you the choice to continue it.

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