I read this article that said reading short stories is an excellent way for a writer to get examples of narrative structure in quick succession. As we all know reading is extremely important for writers to hone their craft, but as many of us tend to delve into novel writing, we also tend to read more novels for inspiration and example. Per the advice in this article and for the reasons given, I decided to start reading short fiction on a (somewhat) daily basis. Lucky me, I discovered that I was unknowingly surrounded by it! Here is what I read and gained from my first week:
I began with O. Henry’s “The Plutonian Fire”, which was somewhat of a treatise on the nature of writing – the lengths we writers must go to and the deceptions we sometimes must act for the better of our craft.
I read another O. Henry after that – “The Princess and the Puma”; the “Princess” in this case being the daughter of a wealthy landowner in Middle America. This story – being very similar in theme to the Poe I read today, “Spectacles” – demonstrated the folly of the vanity and pride of men. In the case of the O. Henry story, pride of masculine vs feminine roles, and in the case of the Poe pure vanity of appearance. The end result in both cases is likely to elicit an “Oh-you-silly-man”-style giggle.
Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” – an excellent example of the feminist themes for which this author is so celebrated – is heartbreaking. And it is an interesting contrast to Dorothy Parker’s piece, “Mr. Durant” which shames the title character indirectly for his callousness.
Finally, H.P. Lovecraft, who I have wanted to read for sometime, and for which I have my cousin and her clever idea for wedding favor to thank. “The Beast in the Cave” was a great example of the thriller/horror genre that Lovecraft is touted for. However, I learned a very important lesson about reading short fiction. You see, I have for years, got into the habit of flipping ahead to see how much further I have to go before the end of a chapter of\r at least a natural stopping point. Now, this is fine when reading a novel (save for the danger of seeing a statement so enticing that you won’t put the book down anyway). However, this is very dangerous when done with short fiction. In order to not ruin your own reading, I will use an example to illustrate this danger. I happen to look at the last line, which for all of it’s twisty surprise-iness is this story’s equivalent to, “He’s Keyser Soze.”
Moral: Don’t read ahead in short fiction!!