These days, time seems shorter than ever, crammed full with work, errands, chores, activities, workouts, and so much more. Our attention spans are short, conditioned by tweets, snippets, Facebook posts, text messages, and the like.
It seems logical, then, that readers would embrace short stories as a sound solution to the time issue. But short fiction, whether viewed as art or entertainment, is largely overlooked, and readers are sorely missing out.
Why is that?
There is probably a complex, interwoven matrix of reasons, but one factor must surely be the shake-up in the publishing industry during recent years. Many magazines—traditional entry points for short stories—have gone under, choking off the flow of short fiction into the literary marketplace.
There are only a small handful of magazines to which I send my short stories now, but my love for the form continues to grow. There is so much to love about short stories!
Short stories are different from novels in a number of ways. Obviously, I love both types of fiction, but short stories free up more room for fun, as a writer, and that benefit passes on to the reader. What I mean is that I feel more free to experiment with the short form. My reader isn’t investing so much, in terms of time and money, so I can take more risks with my stories. Risks that often pay off in surprising ways for the reader.
Another benefit for readers is that a short piece has concentrated story power. It is highly focused on delivering, and every word counts toward distilling the essence into a small, potent package. In other words, you get a big bang for your buck.
But my favorite treat offered by so many short stories, is the twist!
Best kept secret
Because the writer of a short story must create colorful characters, in a vivid world, within a small space, the medium is a superb source for box office hits. An extensive list of great movies and television shows are based on short stories and, chances are, you didn’t even know that.
- Rear Window
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- The Birds
- Minority Report
- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- The Shawshank Redemption
- 3:10 To Yuma
- The Fly
- The Illusionist
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- 36 Hours
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Clearly, there’s gold to be mined in short fiction. Hollywood’s best kept secret can be the key to more reading treasure for you. We all know the book tends to be better than the movie, so read the stories before they hit the screen.
Some good bets for striking it rich
I’m a big believer in using your local library. Libraries are a fantastic resource, and constantly evolving to better serve readers. If you haven’t been using your library to access digital and audio books, mend your ways and get on it! I’ve included links for the books I’ve listed, if you prefer to purchase. Either way, try immersing yourself in these short stories for a sweet, suspenseful reading experience.
- The Best American Mystery Stories, collected by the year
- Twisted, and More Twisted, by Jeffery Deaver
- Thriller, and Thriller 2, curated by ITW, the International Thriller Writers
- Face Off, and MatchUp, curated by ITW
- Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
- Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
- Fiction River, by WMG Publishing
- Pulphouse Fiction Magazine, by WMG Publishing
And so many more! And you can get my latest short story collection, What Leads A Man To Murder, plus a bonus book, for free when you sign up for my readers’ group, a simple twice-monthly email giving you access to updates and goodies.
Bottom line, you can enrich your reading life with some real golden nuggets when you turn to short stories. If you’re not already a fan, I hope you’ll give them a try!
How about you? Got a favorite short story you’d like to share? Know of a blockbuster movie based on a short story that I didn’t mention? Tell us in the comments.