If you follow me on Twitter or know me from Scribophile, you’re already aware I write fiction of the 100-to-1000 word variety. I’m new at it, but my love for short stuff is almost forty years old. It all started with this:

Games Killers Play
Excellent middle-school reading

So I was a morbid kid. What can I say?

[Caution: If you’re on the lookout for animated GIFs, try another blog.]

This Hitchcock gem hung out on a bookshelf in our den, nestled somewhere between Golding and Irving and sang out to me. Mom didn’t mind–she had already accepted my addiction to horror when she spied my best friend and me playing Dracula out in the yard. (I always had to be Mina, which I found frustrating.)

Three stories in this little collection have stuck in my brain over the years: “Room to Let” by Hal Ellson, “Heist in Pianissimo” by Talmadge Powell, and “Bus to Chattanooga” by Jonathan Craig. The last one was kind of a disappointment–not macabre enough for my ten-year-old tastes–but I still remember it.

High school introduced me to more short lit, which I greatly preferred to tomes like Moby Dick and the incredibly dull Ethan Frome (I never read that one, but passed the test anyway). My sophomore English teacher assigned this bit o’ amazing:

The Lottery
Put down The Hunger Games and read this. Now.

If you haven’t read it, I feel really sorry for you. It. Is. Perfect. If you have read it, or any other Shirley Jackson, I don’t have to tell you why “The Lottery” is one of my favouritest shorts of all time.

The same year (I think–it was a long time ago), Mark Helprin’s “Katrina, Katrin'” made its way onto my desk via an issue of Literary Cavalcade. I forgot the author’s name for over a decade, but I never forgot the story, or its searingly-gorgeous final line. You can find it in this collection:

A Dove of the East
Warning: This one could get you fired.

Helprin writes prose that pierces the heart.

And, of course, there’s Stephen King. “The Long Walk” wasn’t on any prep school reading lists, but it made its way around the halls. I think I read it when I was supposed to be delighting in the depression of Ethan Frome.

King or Wharton? Easy choice.
King or Wharton? Easy choice.

Between the years, I’ve dined on Dahl (god, he was a sick bastard), boozed up on Bierce and Bradbury (not as sick, but still good), and fed on Forsyth (also not sick, but I dig the twistiness).

In 2015, I started reading and writing flash for the sole purpose of maintaining some shred of sanity between novel revisions. More on that in an upcoming post. This piece by Ani King is what got me hooked. If I can write something half as good as “Conjugate ‘to be’, using complete sentences” (yes, that’s really the title), I figure I’ll be golden.

4 thoughts on “A long love affair with the short form

  1. I’m also a big fan of the short form. It was Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew, which I discovered at the age of twelve, that got me hooked on short stories.

    Flash fiction, though, is definitely one of my favorite forms, and my last couple of publications have been flash. Speaking of publishing flash, I loved your Flash Fool entry “Days to Go Before I Sleep,” over at The Molotov Cocktail. Great story.

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