It seems that the short story is back in style, at least for writers. Every time I look at my Twitter feed I am bombarded with posts about the various short stories that people have written, and I’m just as guilty. Why not? Short stories are fun to write, quick to read, and can accumulate quickly. All said, it seems like a great idea. Of course, this is the writer in me speaking. However, there are some distinct advantages to writing a short story or five.
1) Short stories can tie into larger works.
I’ve been enjoying The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. These stories are not only fun to read, but they also work to build up the characters first introduced in A Study in Scarlet. They were also written in a time when there was big money in short fiction. These days it isn’t as common to see such stories, though they do seem to be making a comeback thanks to the eBook. For examples, look up John Jackson Miller’s Lost Tribe of the Sith series of short stories, or Lindsay Buroker’s Shaped Over Innocence, which ties into her Emperor’s Edge series.
Another consideration: Even if your short story is never published, you can use it to gain some insight into the world that you’ve created.
2) Short stories are a cure for writers block.
You may have read my short story, The Immortal. If you haven’t, look for it at your favourite eBook retailer or download it at Smashwords. That particular project was a distraction from a larger work that I’m currently working on. I was suffering from a bad case of writers block, and decided to try writing something else to get the creative juices flowing. It worked. Add it turns out, my writers block was nothing more than intimidation related to writing a novel. A smaller project can help alleviate that intimidation.
3) Short stories make for some nice, light reading before bed.
Do I need to build on this? If you read before bed, short stories are great because one can finish the whole story before turning out the bedside lamp. Of course, this isn’t for everyone. Some of you may prefer to read a chapter or two from a medical thriller or fantasy adventure. On the other hand, if a short story is for you, you may have a collection of them on your night table already.
4) There’s no better way to test an author.
Authors and readers alike need to give this some thought. Books, even eBooks, can be expensive. You may not want to spend between $10-$20 on an author that you don’t know. Then there’s the investment in time. A cheap or free short story can solve this issue. I can think of a few books I would not have read of I had read some sort stories from those authors. For the sake of professionalism I won’t mention names, but I have a never-read-again list of authors, add I suspect most do. (In fairness, everyone has their own preferences, and the authors I dislike may be some of your favourites.)
Short stories may not be the master works that everybody wants, but they do serve an important role.