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Another Death

March 24, 2013

That’s the title of a short-story I began writing two years ago. That’s also how I feel every time I try to write a short-story. I look at it and say: Here’s another one that will die.

For some reason I can’t write short-stories, or at least stories that I have confidence in. Most of them, anyway. I’ve never sold one but came close with “The Boy in the Dog Suit,” which was rejected by a children’s magazine. On the rejection letter someone had written: Sorry we’re unable to use your very imaginative story.

I liked that. I pretended that the magazine couldn’t use it because they had way too many stories about little boys who dress up like dogs to give them confidence.

Perhaps I don’t have the temperament to write short-stories. I like a broad canvas on which to present my stories, minimum of 60,000 words. I’ve written maybe two dozen short-stories, and with every one I wanted to extend the characters and plot because I wasn’t comfortable relating just one incident in the lives of the characters. I wanted them to grow from whatever situation they were involved in and learn from it. The novel I’m currently writing, “The Coffin Haulers,” began as a short-story I wrote in 1988.

And yet I love reading short-stories and I admire how other writers bring them off successfully. My two favorite stories are “Araby” by James Joyce and “In Another Country” by Ernest Hemingway. I’m a fan of every short-story written by Ward Just. The other day I reread “Mr. Know-All” by W. Somerset Maugham and marveled at the story’s ending.

Writing short-stories requires a different discipline than writing novels. Paraphrasing Ward Just in his introduction to “21 Selected Stories,” a novel is a grand-slam homer while the short-story is a suicide squeeze.

Different skills, and not everyone can master both.

  1. I’m the opposite. I write short stories, but I don’t feel like my ideas can carry the weight of a novel. Not yet anyway!

  2. Thanks so much, Thea. After I wrote the post I decided to haul out from my bilge pile the short-stories I’d written and try to give one or two of them another bash. We should all grow as writers, so maybe my growth will be expressing an idea succinctly, and successfully, in 2,000 words or so. At least I can try.

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