Why Short Fiction?

July 12, 2016

Once upon a time, the short story was king.  Published in newspapers and magazines, short fiction could be found everywhere.  All the great writers could handle the form.


Today, short fiction is considered a bit of a side show.  We've taken it to the extreme of flash fiction, even Twitter stories, where an entire story is reduced to a hundred words (or characters).  People just shake their head at the idea that I want to start off with a collection of short fiction.  


Novels are the king today, even better -  series, stories that won't end until the last reader refuses to pick up the latest edition.


I certainly have nothing against success.  I have nothing against novels.  With any luck at all my first novel will be announced here within the next 12 months.  Yet I will begin with the short story.


In the Foreword of "Shorts" I note this:

           "I fell in love with short stories in high school. I read a lot from childhood on. But it was almost exclusively novels. In my tenth grade English class Edgar Allen Poe's “The Cask of Amontillado” as assigned reading. In 2,495 words Poe blew my mind. The subtle humor, the hint of madness, the slow realization of the narrator's intent. I finished the story and just stared at the page. I never knew that storytelling could be like this."


Shortly thereafter I would write my own first successful short.  For me success was defined as creating in the reader the emotion I wanted.  That first story is included in the collection as well.  Since that time I have continued my love affair with the short story.  I love the discipline it requires.  Even at several thousand words, each word has to be carefully chosen and placed.  The story has to be carefully crafted and supremely focused.  Whether that focus is on action, emotion, character or atmosphere, you can not clog up the story with a lot of superfluous details.  One story, maybe only one idea is given center stage and developed as fully as possible.


There are studies out there that claim that the rise of the e-book has increased a desire for "quick reads".  Some people find reading off the screen to be difficult and tiring.  This is why, the theory goes, that we are seeing more novels with short chapters.  I say, why not turn to an old friend who is perfect for short but intense storytelling?  Why not the short story.


You may also notice that while I sometimes refer to the "short story" here, I also use the term "short fiction" including on the cover of the book.  The reason for that is that many of the stories in "Shorts" are, in fact, quite short.  Well below the conventional parameters for a "short story".  Normally I would just give the conventional the bird and move on.  Instead, I've tried to at least pretend to be an adult and simply called the book a "Short Fiction Collection".


In the end, I truly don't care what you call the stories.  I just hope you like them and tell all your friends to read them as well.





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J.D. Phillippi, Richmond VA, JDPhillippiAuthor@Gmail.com


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