Thursday, May 23, 2013

In which Bridget discusses the appeal of short stories versus novels

I am very much a novels person. I love grabbing a chunky volume off the shelf and curling up with it, and I've found that my favorite novels tend to be at least 500 pages long. I'm also very much a details person in that I find that I need to know everything, and that's what long novels usually give me: painstaking detail.

This is also why I am generally not a big fan of short stories.

But--I've been reading a lot of Stephen King's short stories recently. Maybe it's just that it's him, but I've been enjoying them quite a bit. One of the advantages is that if I'm not necessarily very into a story, I don't feel bad skipping over it. It's also an advantage that I can tell myself it'll only be a few more pages and then it'll be over--it's not like trying to plod through a novel that I'm not enjoying.

They're also just cool little pieces of the author's mind. It's so interesting to me to think that an author could be struck by an idea and create an entire story in pretty much one sitting.

I feel like I've always resisted short stories unless I had no choice--by which I mean, if I wanted to read something by Edgar Allen Poe, it would probably have to be a short story. The desire to read short stories just never really translated to authors that had written things other than short stories. My fiancé wanted me to read a collection of James Thurber's short stories once, and after not really getting into the first few, the book sat guiltily on my nighttable until he asked if I was ever actually going to finish. I said I might, but short stories just really weren't my thing. It was difficult for me to enjoy them because right as I was getting drawn in, the story would be over.

I think now, though, after reading a few of Stephen King's short story collections in a row (Everything's Eventual, Night Shift, Skeleton Crew, and now I'm working on Nightmares and Dreamscapes for a second time), I'm starting to appreciate the format a little bit more. It's kind of cool to have neat, easily digestible, read-in-one-sitting stories that I don't necessarily need to get invested in (even though I do).

That actually leads me to a good metaphor: short stories, to me, always felt like the one-night-stand of the book world. No commitment, minimal time spent, just wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am and we're done. I've always been a deep, committed relationship kind of person when it comes to my books. But now I think I'm ready to play the field a bit more with some more short stories.

So, that being said, a question those of you who are connoisseurs of short stories: where do I start? Or, I guess, where do I continue? What are some of your favorite short stories? Did you have to learn to like short stories like I did, or have you always liked them? Which do you like better, short stories or novels? Let us know in the comments!


  1. I'm with you. Not a big short story fan, but I've always loved King's. I recently read the Sarah J. Maas novellas (4 prequels) and LOVED them. I'm still pretty picky, but willing to give some a try.

  2. i must admit that i am a novel person and have yet to really ever get into short stories (love the metaphor by the way) however i did dip my toe in a little with Reincarnation (review here as it was a set of short stories that all fit together to make a novel

  3. well, I love series (just not the hype ones), because the story continues.
    But in school (i HAVE to have a book with me at all times) I tend to like short stories more. I dont want to read 300 hundred pages on my computer, so i read short stories.

    But i like novels better.

  4. My very very very favourite short stories are the ones written by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff on their Merry Sisters of Fate website. They're wonderful!

  5. Stephen King has made me love short stories. I am sure you read the introductions or conclusions he wrote in those books about the lost art of short stories. It is just nice sometimes to sit down and in one hour you can read an entire tale. I run the Stephen King Fans group on goodreads if you ever want to stop by there and chat about his short stories. We talk about them all the time!

    Angela's Anxious Life

  6. I like individual short stories but reading anthologies, I usually get bored. With lots of short stories together, I feel no commitment to them and so no commitment to keep reading the book.
    I do like them as an introduction to an author's work though. In lit class this year we looked at a few Hemingway short stories and that was really interesting.
    Your metaphor was so true!
    Kathryn x

  7. I'm a fan of short stories that are part of a series. A lot of long standing series, will release little shorts almost as teasers. They're usually a specific event with already established characters so it works. My issue with normal short stories is that I'm lacking the details you mentioned. By the time I get attached to a character, it's over. And honestly, I find that they tend to rush the plot. A normal plot can't typically be condensed into less than 100 pages and I find some authors try.

  8. I do like a well written short story. It's just that I have high expectations for them. It should make up with what it lacks in quantity with quality; or in other words it should circle around an idea, which makes me think about it even days after I read through the story. One of that kind can be found in Daniels collection "Moscow talking", which contains "The day of murder". One day the government sets a date for a day, where you can kill just anybody you like (as long as it's not somebody working for the government) without having to face any punishments.
    Or Ivan Bunins "Dark avenues and other stories" - love stories in such amazing language; I swear the language is so beautiful, it almost made me cry.
    Or if you like the absurd, you defenitely have to check out Roald Dahl ("Three stories of the Unexpected" for example).

    The thing with short story collection is, that usually not all the stories included are actually well done. But in my opinion there always is that one story that makes it worth all the while :)

  9. I've always been a big fan of short stories. I read Everything's Eventual recently and I read Nightmares and Dreamscapes ages ago. I love Alice Munro's short stories. Margaret Atwood. Virginia Woolf. There's also a free collection called Forty Stories available for download from Kindle, Kobo, iBookstore, Nook and you can get a PDF from their website too. It has new writers and experienced writers and makes for an interesting collection. I also follow a blog (The Book Mine Set) that has a weekly feature called Short Story Mondays. This week's story is from Ursula LeGuin.

  10. I have to agree with you - I've always preferred novels over short stories. I am exactly the same way. I like being able to become invested in a novel and it's characters, and when I do, I want plenty of details. I like it how novels can spend a lot of time on scenes that need it. I don't like the rushed feeling of a short story, or having it end right when I'm really getting into it. To me, short stories always feel like I'm just getting a glimpse into a bigger story, and they leave me wanting more. However, if a short story is well-written and I enjoy the subject matter, I can still appreciate the short story! I will admit, I haven't read that many short stories, but I enjoyed Fractures by Budge Wilson, which is a collection of them.

  11. I almost have the opposite problem - when I've had to read short stories in school, I tend to really enjoy them, but then when I'm looking for things to read I almost never think of short stories. Plus I feel like I wouldn't know where to find some really good ones, without going for obvious classics, many of whom I have already read with the aforementioned school assignments.


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