Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday's Forgotten Fiction: Short Stories

I read short fiction on a regular basis. In books, but mainly on line. It's even harder to pick a short story to review than it is a book. So, I picked a couple.

The first story that pops into my head is "Quitters, Inc." by Stephen King. This is a haunting tale that is just superb writing. Everything from setting to the intensity of the plot to that little zing at the end. Seems to me that most people know Stephen King for his longer works, but this story should not be overlooked. (I found it in my anthology of the Best American Mystery Stories of the Century.)

Another short story that really stuck with me is "Death by Scrabble" over at East of the Web. It wasn't a place I normally venture, but I came across this story and loved it. It's got some nice double-meanings (aka my Kryptonite) and an amusing ending. One of those endings that you expect, but don't expect. Yeah, I know, that statement almost makes sense. It's not a surprise ending, but not wholly predictable. Fun nonetheless. And it has Scrabble in it.

I can't mention short stories I like without including one by Al Tucher featuring tough dame (and prostitute) Diana Andrews. One of my favorites is titled "Enlarge your Penis" and is now housed at Twist of Noir, but formerly appeared at Muzzle Flash. I do enjoy Diana Andrews-- she's tough and smart and willing to use what she knows (and what she has). I'd like to see a few more dames with the testicular fortitude that Diana Andrews has.

Those are my picks for short stories. There's something fun about a short story. It's like a little snack. One of the best things about short stories, espeically concerning tough characters-- no one stops the story to explain or excuse the behavior. It just is. No past tragedy like so many hardboiled novels get wrapped up in. Just now, this scene, this event.

Now, I'm also a writer a short stories, of course. I probably read more shorts than the average reader, just because I'm constantly puttering around the internet, reading stories in zines. I think the key to short stories is length-- some stories really do better in the shorter format. Some for the reasons I've mentioned above. I also like the streamlined storytelling-- not a lot of fluff.

As for twist endings-- I'm not so big a fan of those. But I do like that little bit at the end that makes the ending just a little more wow. Maybe it makes a previous detail more shocking or clarifies something or just some sort of zinger. Those leave the best impression on me, though they can be the hardest to pull off. With a short story, I think it's even harder to be remembered-- less time invested in the story overall-- so something *really* has to stand out from the crowd. The stories I've picked above are ones that, to me, are something different.

Make sure you visit Patti Abbott, the Official Forgotten Book Friday Wrangler.


pattinase (abbott) said...

You are so right about the bit at the end...I think you have to have it but not a twist unless it's a doozy and well prepared form. People that don't write shorts don't know how hard it is!

Paul Brazill said...

Very good points and great choice of short. Al Tucher is a master, if you ask me.