What makes a short story sweet?

Short fiction. Concise, pointed, generally fast-paced. But what makes short fiction Short & Sweet as opposed to just plain Short? I’ve read quite a cross section of short fiction throughout my years of primary school, high school, personal reading and now university. And quite miserably, for every good short piece of fiction that I’ve enjoyed, I’ve had to endure approximately five terrible pieces. The art of short fiction is apparently one in its own right and those who think you can just cut a chapter out of a novel have yourself a short story are very, very wrong. Short stories require quite a bit of coy plotting for although it may not take as long to write and think up as a five hundred page fantasy novel, you have little room for whinnying your way around to the point. You have to get there. Fast. But still with enough padding that you can call it literature as opposed to an assembly of dot points. 

So, that all said, what are your thoughts on short fiction and what makes it good? What do you like to read and what do you think a writer has to do to serve this genre well? 

4 thoughts on “What makes a short story sweet?

  1. What makes short fiction good – wow, that is a tricky question.
    I don’t know that I could define it, yet I know the good stuff when I read it! Many people think that it is easier to write short stories than a full length novel, but I disagree. In short fiction the writer has to know exactly what to leave out, and to make every word count.
    Here are three very different collections of short stories I recommend highly:
    ‘Kiss Kiss’ by Roald Dahl (yes, the same chap who wrote ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ – but these stories are for adults)
    ‘Dear George and other Stories’ by Helen Simpson (actually I could have recommended any of her books of short stories they are terrific and they make me laugh.)
    ‘Gold Boy, Emerald Girl’ by Yiyun Li (I live in China and Yiyun Li is my favourite Chinese short story writer – obviously they are in English!)


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