Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Short Stories Are Needed

We read much this week about short stories, its apparent demise within the UK and how the US in contrast is now growing the genre and has writers producing works exclusively in it.

The length of a story has been something we have often been amused by. It’s like comedy, there is simple one liner and there are the long monologues. Both can work equally on the audience and some comedians are better suited to one form than the other. Economics have often dictated the length of a book which is often expressed not in pages but number of words. Someone once remarked, the first novel is tightly controlled and shaped by the editor and delivers the requested volume. The second novel is a bit more relaxed re its control but again delivers around the required volume. The third and subsequent works are often very loose and the volume can vary widely often growing in size. They suggested looking at the Harry Potter series. We couldn’t possibly comment.

In a world of shortening attention span and available quality time, the short story has huge potential. Not only can it provide that quality quick read, but it also can be a lever to introduce the readers into longer reads. The progression is not a given, nor are they two mutually exclusive and therefore short stories must stand on their own two feet. We fondly remember the short stories that lay within many households between the covers of Reader Digest, Women’s Own, People’s Friend and many others. These have not gone away, but many have been replaced by Hello, OK and the sound bite celebrity photo shoot. This has both reduced the creative pool and also the audience.

Japan has demonstrated through its Keitai novels and the rise of Mieko Kawkami’s writings, that today’s technology is suited to the short story, or serialisation of the longer one. As technology shrinks it is appropriate that content shrinks to fit. Technology is very well suited to the short read but is very questionable when it comes to 250 pages. That is unless you have regular eye check ups and a good optician.

So the short story has a real opportunity to both assist the adoption of digital works and importantly to entertain. Its now up to many to recognise that size may not matter so much and simply shoehorning an existing work into the new technology may not be the answer.


Rivs said...

You're so right.

There are a number of British websites that specialise in short fiction though - 3am, Byker Books and The Beat spring to mind. As far as I can tell Byker Books is looking at producing a regular anthology starting later in the year (I know because I'm in the debut publication!) so there may be hope for the short British tale yet.

Anonymous said...

One question. Im a short story writer but im not sure how u go about getting them publihed, i dont know the right channels any tips?

Martyn Daniels said...

try the infamous wattpad or scribd and at least get the material out there and up for others to see. There are plenty of publisher author sites but these tends still to be full book orientated (authonomy etc)