Introduction to Short Fiction

Short fiction is a genre that has interested me casually since middle school, when we had to read a few of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories. I was struck by how complex a story Poe was able to tell in such a small amount of pages. This is one of the principal ways that a good short story writer uses their talent. The challenge of writing a short story is bringing readers to the emotional highs and lows achieved in any form of art with a limited number of words. Characters can’t have their backstories explained in full depth. Relationships can’t be illustrated with dozens of dialogues and stories.

Short fiction does offer some unique opportunities as a writer; the genre has a flexibility that isn’t enjoyed by essayists, novelists, or even filmmakers. The genre’s brevity can be its strength. The story “Are We Not Men?” by T. C. Boyle explores a science fiction scenario where animals and people can have their DNA edited. The concept is explored only as far as it is important for the story. The characters are outlined and then thrown together in expressive, minimal scenes that form a compelling piece of writing. “The Presentation on Egypt” by Camille Bordas is another good example that takes a similar approach. Two or three characters are explored mostly through their interactions and thoughts in the moment of the narrative. Backstory and flashbacks are absent. Short stories are immediate. For the most part, they tell their stories through expressive moments. This is my favorite thing about the genre. When reading one of these pieces, it feels like spending time with the characters rather than hearing someone tell a story about them. It’s more intimate, human, and real.

The genre’s flexibility also allows for some creative literary use of language. Quotation marks and other punctuation can be left out or overused. Sentences don’t always carry a subject and a predicate. These features would no doubt be tiresome were they to last for an entire novel, but in a short story, they serve to change the way the reader processes the story without sentencing them to a long and potentially confusing read.

3 thoughts to “Introduction to Short Fiction”

  1. I think writing a short story will be a really cool experience since (at least for me) it is something you rarely get to work on past elementary/middle school. As you’ve described it, the flexibility of the genre really allows you to break through norms, be creative, and tell the story in a way unique to you. I think that has amazing room for potential.

    When I read short stories, or even watch short films, I am always astounded by how the creators do it. As a little bit of an over-explainer myself, I feel that I would find it difficult to not provide readers with the whole backstory. However, you seem comfortable with this and comfortable with letting readers make assumptions to tie the story together; I envy that!

    I would like to understand more about your origin piece as it isn’t listed here. I think knowing this would really allow me to envision how your short story will look and the room for creativity and growth it has. Also, maybe is there a short story you have in mind you really, really like? Or that you could compare to your origin piece as inspiration?

  2. Hi!

    So I think it’s super cool that you’ve chosen short fiction as your first genre! What exactly is your origin piece? I’m also curious on as to how it could potentially evolve into another genre!

    On a similar note, I just wanted to add that I really like the informative tone of your piece. It elaborates on your genre in a way that isn’t boring but still managed to unpack a lot of information.

  3. Hey Riley!
    I really liked your introduction on short fiction, and how it is a genre that has always kept you interested! Thank you for linking the the short fiction stories, as I got a chance to glance them over and they were really good examples! One thing I really liked about what you wrote is how when reading short fiction stories, you feel as if you are with the characters and the writing is very intimate and expressive—that is my favorite type of writing to compose. You gave me great insight on the genre short fiction, and I am really excited to see your work! I would love to hear more about your original piece too!

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