Sunday, December 9, 2012

Short Stories

“Short fiction seems more targeted - hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it's a lot smokier and less defined.” ― Paolo Bacigalupi

There's nothing quite like a good story well told. The appeal of many of Dylan's songs is the story telling. Songs like Fourth Time Around, Tangled Up In Blue and Lily, Rosemarie and the Jack of Hearts have as their key feature the essence of a good story: the reader or listener's anticipation. "What happens next? Every line transports you into the unknown and you go with it.

At one time short story writers could make very good money. In the days before movie theaters and television, magazines like The Saturday Evening Post offered some of the best entertainment around. And they paid well to get marquis writers like Jack London and F. Scott Fitzgerald on their covers.

Another master of the short story form was Anton Chekhov, whose output was remarkable considering he made his living as a physician and was dead by age 44. Of this dual career he once wrote, "Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other." Three years ago I shared here one of my favorite short stories of all time, Chekhov's The Bet.  

What gave Chekhov's stories such impact was his recognition of the importance of every line, every detail. He is famously cited as stating, "If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the third." (Chekhov was also a playwright.)

Jorge Luis Borges is another great short story writer whose influence was considerable. A number of my own stories drew inspiration from this Argentine magician who brought Minotaurs to life and resurrected the roots of forgotten worlds through literary sleight-of-hand. My Duel of the Poets (translated into Croatian in 1996) and Unremembered History of the World were germinated from Borges' seeds.

All this to say that I'd been wrestling with the development of two characters in a new short story I've been working on called The Echo. Friday night's Valtari Experience proved to be just the jolt I needed, smashing inner barricades and releasing new flashes of light that might help guide me through the next portion of my inward maze.   

What will happen next in this series of dreams? Field upon field or the destination of a lifetime?

Featured eBook of the Day: Unremembered Histories

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