Monday, September 10, 2012

Short stories: an introduction

What is a short story?
  • By number of words
    o 6,000 – 8,000 words
  • * Publisher definition
    • May include many genres
    o e.g. science fiction, crime...
  • Impulse to make stories
    o Makes us fully human
  • First stories : folktales
    o Entertains, explains, fantasies
  • Entertain
  • Dream about things that might be
  • Explain something from nature
  • Recount what happened
  • Teach a lesson
Development of short story
  • Emerges in four different countries at the same time in the mid 19th century
    o Russia: Gogol
    o United States: Irving, Hawthorne, Poe
    o France: Balzac
    o German: Hoffman
It is interesting to note that the short story emerged in four different countries at the same time as there is no known communication between any of the authors.

At the same time
  • Development
    o Realism as a writing style
    o Camera
    o Newspapers and magazines
    o Growth of literacy
    o Serialized novels
    o Industrial revolution
    o More leisure time
  • First short story anthology
    o Canadian short stories – 1928
    • Edited by Raymond Kinster (1899-1932)
    • Published by Macmillan of Canada
    • Included 17 stories
Canadian short stories
  • Authors included
    o Stephen Leacock
    o Charles G.D. Roberts
    * Also wrote 1st animal stories
    o Duncan Campbell Scott
    o Morley Callaghan
  • 1st Canadian short stories were much formula written
  • Many first published in American magazines
  • Had not yet found a Canadian voice
How does a short story differ from a novel?
  • Length
  • Unity
    o Important
    o No side plots
    o No flashbacks
  • May appear to be dense
  • Limitations of time and space
    o Author’s preference
  • Great necessity for pacing
Canadian short stories are considered part of contemporary life

  • Movies
    o Quickness, cuts, objectivity of camera
  • Poetry
    o Condensing of language
    o Use of imagery and symbolism
  • Newspapers/journalism
    o Condensing, compression
  • Theatre
    o Dramatic compression
  • V.S. Pritchett:
    o “like something glimpsed from the corner of our eye in passing…”
How is a short story the same as a novel?
  • Use same material
    o Human experience
  • Have same aim
    o To communicate
  • Use same medium
    o Words on paper
  • But: precision
What tools do authors use?
  • Plot
  • Conflict
    o Resolved
    o not necessarily post modernism beginning, middle, end
  • Setting
    o Is it significant to the story?
    o Can it become a character in itself?
  • Characters and characterization
    o Doesn’t support many well developed characters
  • Point of view
    o Whoever tells the story
    o Would it be the same if someone else had told the story?
Why do short stories remain popular?
  • As all art does
    o May recognize our lives…
  • But best writers don’t simply copy actual life
    o Instead they select/order the events
  • See ourselves and others through author’s eyes
  • Satisfy our inborn craving for art
    o Back to the Stone Age
  • Our need to understand our own experience
    o Read
  • Length suits our present lifeo The way we live now, more convenient
A challenge to writers
  • Challenge to write
  • Can’t waste words
    o Reduced novels
  • Raymond Carver:
    o “Get in, Get out.
    Don’t linger. Go on.”


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