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Short story – easier or harder to write

I am sharing a blog from the magazine Firewords about why writing a short story is harder than writing a novel. If you want to read the blog this is the link:

There are some very good points made. I love writing 100-word flash fiction, called drabble, and anything up to a 1,000 words as well as longer pieces. When you think about scene settings, description, plot and character you have very few words to play with to make the whole thing engaging and pull in readers.

A piece of flash fiction (sometimes called a drabble which I loathe) I wrote called The Painting is published in Into the Void and I recall the stages I went through writing it. It did not take as long as a novel but it took work – crafting the story. The piece went through several incarnations before I settled on the final version. I played with words searching for the perfect one to describe an emotion or to set the scene. I chose the beginning after discarding several ideas which spent up to a hundred words saying the same thing as the dialogue I opened with, four words enfolded in quotation marks. In similar fashion, the ending of the story echoed the start and brings the story full cycle. I chose to put the answer to the question as the start and the question as the end. The shape emulating the ‘loop’ that often exists with dementia patients. None of my choices were random. I trust the reader to understand and recognise the story.

The Painting (100 words-fiction)
(first published in Into the Void July 2016)

Rachel McCabe
Rachel McCabe

‘That’s you, Nonna.’

A fleeting memory. The figure hunches over a piano, head down, fingers splayed. Fear drives it: fear of no longer hearing the music. Sheets of it cover the walls, the ground, floats on a pedal; layer upon layer forming when notes escape. A frenzied pencil scraping the pages before the sound inside dies. The emptied player stares at the crotchets and quavers leaping from the wall, Disney-dancing, spinning and teasing restless fingers. Drained and exhausted, the player stands; bows to applause ricocheting from the roof where the notes linger, and memory dies.

‘Who’s that?’ asks Nonna again.

Marian Allen, a writer, praised it because she identified with her mother’s condition through my words and called it ‘a beautiful bittersweet short short.’  I believe I achieved what I set out to do.

On another theme, one of the statements in the blog is ‘Readers are less forgiving when it comes to a short story’.

I cannot argue against the statement but I wonder why it is? I assume readers of short stories choose to read them and therefore they have an appreciation of them. I also assume that readers unfamiliar with the genre have the same expectation for the short story as they do for a novel. What do we, as writers, have to do to encourage readers of the latter to read and appreciate more of the former? I can only suggest that we write the best that we can and use the skills of our craft to create a piece that lingers long in the memory.

A short story is not, and never will be, a novel. It has a shape, a form, an aesethitic of its own and is the better for it.

If you want to take a look at the magazine or submit then this is the link:



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