The Art & Craft of the Short Story explores every key element of short fiction, including: the generation of ideas, story structure and form, creative believable characters, how to begin and where to end, as well as technical aspects such as point of view, plot, description and imagery, and theme. Examples from the work of a wife variety are used. The author includes five of his own stories to demonstrate these topics.
The short story is a kind of fast fiction. It's like a novel, only, well, shorter, right? Wrong. "The short story is closer in spirit to the poem than it is to the novel," says Rick DeMarinis (Borrowed Hearts: New and Selected Stories
). As in a poem, every word counts. Every metaphor need be carefully considered. Nothing can be wasted. "Unlike the novel," says DeMarinis, "which has ample time to build a history of the central character or characters, the short story lifts the window blinds on someone's life, then, after we've seen enough to understand something about that life, the blinds are closed."
With that in mind, DeMarinis reflects on the various fictional components--viewpoint, character, plot, imagery--as they relate to the short form. He also talks about how unsettling it can be to embark on a new story ("You don't begin with meaning, you end with it"), and how difficult it can be to find the right ending ("I've waited as long as ten years"). Throughout the book is a recurring command for wakefulness: pay very close attention and let nothing be lost on you, DeMarinis says. "Look at familiar people and things with such close attention that it seems you are seeing them for the first time." Write short stories only if you can't not write them, and steel yourself: "you've got to write tens of thousands of words before you begin to see improvement." DeMarinis proves a wonderful companion for the serious student of short fiction, though he'd surely balk at our use of "serious": "Writing isn't hard work," he says, "it's hard play." --Jane Steinberg