Dancing with the Short Story

 

Pretty much outside of journals and poetry the short story was the writing form I began with way back in the days of old. I was exposed early on to its many chameleon like forms — the stories of O.Henry, Henry James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and the very haunting “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson. Actually the more I read of the short story the more I noticed how flexible and adaptable the animal was. For some it was a mini novel, more concise; for others it was a haunting vignette, a brief yet relevant slice out of someone’s life; and finally for still others it was the twist — as in O.Henry’s case and Shirley Jackson’s, the unforeseeable turn at the end that catches the reader unaware. Literally it seemed that the short story could be anything you wanted it to be.

When I began writing and later publishing my short story collections I pretty much experimented with all parameters of the writing form. In Breaking Through the Pale, my first collection, the stories were more of the vignette type with the exception of “Contact” which leans itself to the shortened novel form. The other stories took a heightened slice out of the character’s lives. In Dragonflies the stories became more intricate, weaving a more complex turn of events. “The Wizard” and “The Tear” actually cover a significant time span where events escalate dramatically. In The Left Palm I took a page out of Shirley Jackson’s writing and played with the dramatic and often horrifying twist in the end of all of the stories. White Harbor Road actually became a mix of styles. The initial story “White Harbor Road” is close to being a novella in length and unfolds as a definitive paranormal romance. “What is Circumspect by Sophie Wilde” takes the O.Henry route resulting in an unusual twist at the end, and the other stories while romantic lean toward the vignette approach taking a snapshot of a significant but hugely relevant short period in the character’s evolution.

In truth I’ve found that the short story can be as confining or as freeing as the writer wishes it to be. It can be anything and so that puts it into an arena all its own.

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