Like many aspiring authors, when I think of writing, I usually think about writing a novel and while this is certainly one type of written work, it’s certainly not the only one. One of the most underappreciated forms of writing is the short story.
So what exactly is a short story? Well, according to Merriam-Webster a short story is:
An invented prose narrative shorter than a novel usually dealing with a few characters and aiming at unity of effect and often concentrating on the creation of mood rather than plot
Short stories can also range wildly in overall length but generally fall in the range of 1000 – 8000 words though can sometimes be longer.
But this isn’t about what a short story is, it’s about why it’s underrated and this is very easy to answer. A short story forces the author to think creatively about a limited number of characters and scenes and provide a compelling and complete narrative inside of a finite length. This often lends itself to a story that is concise, free from unnecessary details freeing the reader to fill them in using their imagination.
Short stories also frequently explore interesting plot twists or ideas that don’t lend themselves to a longer narrative. Great examples of this include famous words from Edgar Allan Poe who wrote such works as the Tell-Tale Heart measuring in at under 2,500 words and providing an immersive story with minimal focus on developing scenery and providing the perspective of the antagonist in the story.
Short stories are also a great way to get your feet wet with writing, having the ability to be written quickly (in as little as a day with sufficient motivation) and providing an avenue to potentially further flush a concept out should the desire strike.
A short story can also help you gauge audience reactions, flesh out a character you’re unsure of, and even be an entry into a longer series allowing you to breakup a novel into smaller manageable chunks that can be distributed over time.
Inspiration for a short story can also come from anywhere, from groups like Reddit’s Writing Prompts to a chance meeting with an old friend. One way I like to get inspiration and ideas for my stories is to go on a website like Unsplash and choose a few random keywords, or even take the image from the front page and try to imagine what’s happening in the photo.
Have you written a short story? What was your inspiration? Comment below and tell me about it!