Short Stories – You’re reading them wrong!

A few weeks ago I was having a chat with some friends of mine and short stories came up during the conversation. I got asked why I write them rather than longer fiction or novels. I told them that I do write longer fiction, I’m still working on them…’cause…their long. However I also told the assembled chatters that I liked writing and reading short stories, to which they were confused…as was I by the general distaste at the term.

Had I just mentioned tongue splitting or genital modification?

nope…so why the subtle sneers.

A few glasses of wine and some discussing later the truth was uncovered…

They were reading them wrong (in my opinion).

It seems that many people when they get a collection of short stories they read the entire book, from cover to cover in one go, as though it were a novel. The main issue raised was that just as things got going – were heating up – the story ends.

It’s a tease.

I don’t know who’s stories my friends had been reading, but it seemed to upset them. That isn’t what a good short is supposed to do OR the best way (again in my opinion) to read short fiction.

Think of it like a palette cleanser, a sip of wine before the next mouthful. You read a single short or two and then move on to something else. Short stories are like candy, you don’t gorge yourself all in one go, you savor one at a time in between meals. Short stories are the same.

While trying to decide what novel to read next I often take a night or two to read a few short stories or a novella while I figure it out.

I have dozens of collections, both in print and on my kindle, of short stories from a variety of authors, most of them are half read – not because I gave up, but because I’ve been consuming them slowly, piece by piece. The wonderful thing is that there are plenty more left when I return to them.

Plus I get to follow my rule of not reading the same author’s work in a row (keeps things fresh).

Anyway, this all struck me as odd. It got me thinking that maybe other people out there were approaching reading short fiction in a way that helpedĀ neitherĀ reader nor the story. So if you’ve never tried read short stories this way give it a bash, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.