Short Stories

Oh ye of small attention spans: if novels don't float your boat, short stories just might. Even if that boat is less of an oil tanker and more of a kayak.

FormShort Story
LanguageEnglish Language
Literary FormsShort Stories
WritingLiterary Forms

Transcript

00:19

…and you just need a smaller dose of fiction to while away the minutes?

00:23

Short stories are little nuggets of literature…

00:26

…chewable tablets of plot, character, theme and setting…

00:29

…that take all the best parts of novels and shrink them down into pocket-sized morsels.

00:34

You know how the smaller versions of candy bars are called fun-size?

00:36

Yeah, it’s like that. However, short stories aren’t merely…

00:38

shorter.

00:38

Writers haven’t zapped full-length novels with a shrink ray and miniaturized the darn

00:43

things.

00:44

Short stories are their own animal. Rather than taking chapters and chapters to

00:48

flesh out characters and develop plot…

00:50

…short stories don’t have that luxury…

00:52

…so they generally have a very different purpose than novels do.

00:56

They usually center on a single incident or event…

01:00

…and are intended to reveal something significant about human nature…

01:04

…or at least get us thinking about it.

01:07

Many short stories revolve around an epiphany…

01:11

…an ah-ha! moment that occurs when a character realizes some essential truth about the situation,

01:17

or just about life itself.

01:22

Maybe they just discovered the meaning of life…

01:25

…or maybe they realized that they look better with the red lipstick than the pink one.

01:33

Either way, the physical, emotional or spiritual journey the character has been on finds some

01:38

sort of resolution.

01:40

And you can always be sure that there’s something pretty deep going on below the surface.

01:44

In other words… it’s not about the lipstick. Even those stories without a recognizable

01:49

epiphany follow a common plot arc.

01:52

Our protagonist starts out upholding the status quo…

01:56

…until something or someone upsets the balance.

01:59

You’ll find that conflict is much more entertaining in fiction than in real life.

02:04

Once that conflict has been introduced…

02:06

…the character must deal with it, sometimes successfully and sometimes… not so much.

02:11

In the aftermath of their actions, there is usually a bit of denouement, or resolution.

02:16

It’s sort of like the cool down after an exhausting workout.

02:18

The greatest or most successful short stories are often anthologized…

02:22

…in other words, they appear in anthologies, or collections, that either highlight the

02:26

best stories of that year…

02:28

…or of a particular genre…

02:30

…or of all time.

02:32

Better make sure your bookshelf has been reinforced if you purchase that one.

02:37

Novels are great for the beach… or for your desert island…

02:40

…but short stories are a great way of mixing things up and satisfying your short attention

02:44

span.

02:44

Which, incidentally, is why we’re going to wrap this video up now…

02:48

…before you get bored and start looking up cat pictures.