I've got short stories on the brain. I just had a short story posted on Merry Sisters of Fate, and I'm working on two stories for anthologies that are, frankly, killing me.
I am not good at short stories. I have trouble getting the idea for the story compressed into such a short space. More often than not, my short stories end up being opening chapters for novels. Seriously. I have written more novels than I've written short stories. I try to write a short story, but I get caught up in the world and the characters and the plot, and I end up with a novel. As hard as it is to believe, I find it much easier to write 90,000 words than 9,000.
Which means, of course, that I am fascinated by the short story form.
One of my favorites is Ray Bradbury's story "All Summer in a Day." I first learned about this story when Robin McKinley mentioned it on her blog, promptly tracked it down, and fell in love. If you'd like, the full text of the story is here (as well as clips of the PBS short made based on the story). But the premise is this: in a future world, people can live on other planets. But for the residents of Venus, you only get to see the sun once a year. When a little girl's class is preparing for the day of sun, things get out of control...
It's a tragic story, not the least of all because the true horror behind what happens is a very internal sort of horror. There's no monsters jumping out, here--it's not scary because of that. It's scary because--despite the fact that it takes place on Venus--it's a very realistic and true story about the human condition.
I think what makes a good story work is getting that one unique twist to it, and building the story around that. In Bradbury's story what happens to the girl is the twist, and he built the setting--and characters--around that.
For me, I like the stories with twists like this. My fave readings in junior high were by Guy de Maupassant and O. Henry, as well as Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. Recently, I've been reading the fantastic collection of shorts in Zombies vs. Unicorns.
All the while, I'm trying to learn--what makes short stories work? And it seems to me that the ones I like the best are the ones just like Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day"--they provide a snippet of a whole world, but a full event for a single character.
What are some of YOUR favorite short stories? Any suggestions or advice for me in writing them?