Introduction to Short Stories

For my first genre experiment, I’m choosing to reincarnate a few original songs that I play with my band as short stories. I’m particularly interested in short stories in relation to my origin piece (or pieces) since short stories can be very expressive despite their limitations.  Short stories rely on being less detailed and descriptive to increase the curiosity and interest of the reader. I think songwriting is similar in a way, since there is a select amount of personal information presented to the listener, and there are some limitations in time, rhythm, and harmony. Because of this, I thought these genres would make for a great writing experiment, as they are both expressive, limited, and generate curiosity within the audience.  Short stories, however, are individual in many conventions. Unlike most songs or poems, short stories usually will contain a story arc with characters, a setting, and a plot. The uniqueness of short stories is that each of these conventions tend to be kept relatively simple. Usually, it’s up to the reader to form an opinion about the character or characters in a short story based on the limited information given. For the setting, it’s important to establish and create some sort of mood, but the descriptions are usually less detailed. Lastly, the plot is usually structured in a linear style. In many novels and movies, there tends to be subplots, complex twists, and gradual developments. But in short stories, there is almost always just one plot that is meant to be relatively simple. 

One short story that really stuck with me since I read it in 8th grade English many years ago is The Landlady by Roald Dahl. Here’s a PDF of the story so you can check it out for yourself: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/landlady_text.pdf. I think it’s fascinating that an acclaimed children’s writer like Dahl has a lesser known dark writing style that is showcased in this piece. Not only is it an incredibly well written story in the horror/mystery genre, it also is a great example of short story; The Landlady clearly displays all of the conventions that I discussed. For characters, there are only two characters that are introduced in the story: Billy Weaver and the Landlady.  There is not much description given about them, aside from the actions that take place throughout the story. The setting is slightly descriptive, but doesn’t get into too much detail. It tends to focus the most on the developing conversation between Billy and the Landlady. The plot is also kept pretty simple throughout its short 5 pages. Billy needs a place to stay, he finds the old bed and breakfast, and is introduced to the Landlady. The rest of the story focuses on their conversation and what seems to be “off” about the situation from Billy’s perspective. The Landlady is a great example of a piece that is brief, but memorable. I still remember reading it in 8th grade, which just goes to show that the piece uses only what it needs to be compelling.

3 thoughts to “Introduction to Short Stories”

  1. It’s very clear to me that you understand the conventions of the genre well and I think it’s helpful to have an “ideal” in mind, like you do with the Roald Dahl story. I haven’t read that one yet, but I will now! I know you were concerned that your post wasn’t “fun” enough, but I don’t think a post has to be “fun” to be interesting. If you’re passionate about the topic, like I know you are with your music, then that passion is engaging in itself!

  2. I really like that you are drawing connections between songwriting and short stories and the lack of extra details while still being able to tell a story, it makes short stories seem like a perfect experiment to try! Do you think you’ll try and emulate aspects of Landlady in your own short story? Or how are you hoping to make your short story as memorable as Landlady one was for you?

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