How I Changed My Mind About Short Stories

As a reader, you think you know what genres and authors you like, right? You’ve got a pretty good idea about what topics or plot lines or character types will spark your interest. That’s what I thought about short stories, but boy was I wrong.

Most short stories fall between 5,000 and 10,000 words.

Some short stories are even closer to 1,000 words and can be easily read in just a few minutes. I’ve often seen collections of short stories published together to comprise a book of 50,000 words that will sell better.

Recently, I realized that I had changed my mind about short stories. It was official– I like them.

I was browsing the library and saw Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang, a smallish book with a dark cover and silver lettering. I knew it was familiar, but couldn’t immediately remember why, until I opened the cover. I instantly recalled how amazing I thought this book was.

I originally read this collection of short stories many years ago as an ebook. I remember reading these stories on my lunch break while at work and being so engrossed that I didn’t want to stop.

I’ve always assumed that I didn’t like short stories because well, they are short.

I love epic fantasy books and series with as many books as possible so that I can keep the story going for hours and days of reading. Generally, if I fall in love with a story I desperately want to know how it ends without it ever actually ending.

So, the idea of short stories never appealed to me because I made some false assumptions.

Here’s why I thought I didn’t like short stories:

  1. I thought engaging stories couldn’t be done in such a short word count.
  2. I didn’t want to read something so quickly that I was done in 15 minutes. I generally seek out news or science articles if I want a quick one-off read.
  3. I never really tried them, so I assumed after nearly three decades of reading that if I wasn’t already reading them, it was because I didn’t want to.
  4. Short stories rarely make the rounds on social media or get the same attention as full length novels. I wasn’t exposed to them frequently and thought they must not be better than the best-sellers.

Here’s how I changed my mind about short stories:

  1. I found short stories that I could not put down. Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang was the first book of short stories that absolutely made me reassess the genre.
  2. I intentionally searched for more short stories on the interent. I found The Box Social by James Reaney and then I knew it wasn’t a fluke.
  3. I recognized that I was pleasantly surpised by how rich and fulfilling these stories are.
  4. I realized there is true skill in creating a fully fledged story in under 10,000 words. I’ve found that short story authors must master the art of writing only what truly matters. It’s often more difficult to write concisely than it is to take up 80,000 words with superfluous matter.

So this was really a long time coming, but I hadn’t realized I was slowly changing my mind about short stories. It sometimes takes time to admit that you’re wrong or that you’ve been missing out on something good for so long. Maybe I was in denial about liking short stories?

But, I finally figured out that all this time I was trying to tell myself to read more short stories.

Short stories are wonderful in their own way and don’t need to be compared to full-length books. They are what they are because they are short.

Do you read short stories?

Tell me in the comments if you’ve found short stories that you just can’t put down!

2 thoughts on “How I Changed My Mind About Short Stories

Add yours

  1. I generally dislike short stories, mostly because of the flow I get into when reading said books. It’s almost like I need to ‘start over’ and mentally prepare myself every few pages, which gets a bit tiring for me. But your mention of Ted Chiang could be exactly what I need, because if it helped you enjoy short stories, perhaps it’d do the same for me. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    Like

    1. Thanks for reading Stuart! I hope you find some good short stories like I did. If you need a few more to try maybe go with “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (about 2,500 words) or something a bit longer like Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” (a bit over 16,000 words).

      Liked by 1 person

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