I talk quite a lot about short stories on this blog. There’s a couple of reasons for that! First of all, I just love them. A well-crafted short story is one of the most satisfying things to read. But the main reason why I like talking about short stories and anthologies is because I think they’re super underrated! I think that’s because there are some misconceptions about them, which I’m going to be discussing today.
1. Short stories aren’t satisfying to read
I’ve read a couple different arguments that short stories just aren’t as satisfying to read, as compared to a novel. And I can understand that – novels tend to follow the same characters, and you really get invested in their story. But I personally think that they can actually be better reads. I like immersing myself in my reading, and I don’t often get to fully do this with a novel, because I have to break up my reading over days or sometimes even weeks. With a short story, you can usually just sit down and finish it in one go. Also, there are short story collections that are interlinked and follow the same character/group of characters. That often has the same emotional pay-off as a full-length novel!
2. Short stories are just writing exercises – real authors write novels
First of all, I think that this does a disservice to authors! All authors are ‘real’ authors, no matter what they write. Also, like I said above, I think that short stories are more difficult to craft than novels. They have to be tighter, every word well-chosen, whereas novels are more expansive and sometimes have lulls. I think that short stories just have a bad reputation because they’re are a great way to teach creative writing students about the craft. And unfortunately, writing by young (and often also female) students is assumed to be bad and childish.
3. Short stories vary so much – a collection is bound to include stories that I don’t like
See, I personally love that about short stories! If you’re not enjoying a story, you can (usually) just skip to the next one and it’s absolutely fine. I would also suggest maybe going with a collection totally written by one author, such as Her Body and Other Parties or The Rental Heart. And while even these won’t be completely filled with 5-star stories, I think that if you’re a fan of the author, or even perhaps just the general theme of the anthology, that’ll tie the stories together in a way that feels a little less varied. For some good ones I would recommend All Out or Black Enough.
Do you think short stories are underrated? If you don’t read them, why not? Let me know!