Secrets to Short Stories

by K.C. Maguire

Folks have been recommending lots of short story collections to me lately, and that’s outside of the Space City Scribes releasing our own latest collection First Last Forever: A Collection of First Date Disasters recently.

I’ve started to think more about the differences between the short story format and the novel. As a reader, I tend to be drawn to novels because I like to be totally immersed in a narrative for a long time, rather than a short time. I want to get to know the characters and play around in their lives for as long as I can. This is probably true of me as a writer as well.

Some stories unquestionably work well in a shorter format: slice of life stories and vignettes, pithy stories that often have a sting in the tail, and some “concept” stories where the story is a teaser to a bigger concept. That’s not to mention side-stories that many of us (including many of us Space City Scribes) write to illuminate aspects of the lives of secondary characters, or main characters outside our novels’ story arcs.

As a reader, I tend to LOVE science fiction and fantasy short stories because sometimes I’m really in it for the “what if” and, once I’ve gotten that, I’m satisfied. Sci-fi and fantasy seem to lend themselves to high concept stories where a quick dip into the waters is satisfying enough.

But for romances, say, and a lot of coming-of-age narratives, I like to live with the characters for longer.

Do blog readers have preferences as to the genres they prefer to read in short story format versus novel format? What about the things you prefer to write? Any secrets to share on short stories?


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