Short Stories: The Stepchild? Novels: The Favoured Child?

Imagination does not discriminate when it gives birth to a story. I gathered the children of years of labor and set them free into the publishing world. There I learned the bitter truth. Correct me if I am wrong.

“Short stories have no market. Send in the novel.”

“I will take a pass on the short stories but I am open to novel submissions.”

“We are not accepting short stories at this point of time. Longer works of fiction may be submitted.”

The same lines over and over. I got the point. The question that rankled me is why?

I compiled my stories into an ebook and “A Smattering of Darkness: Short and Shorter Twisted Tales” was born. There was no way I was abandoning years of labour. I got a readership, definitely less than newly released novels but a readership for sure. I got reviews, though many reviewers stated that this was not their favourite genre. I got converts who gave the book a chance and figured short stories were not taboo and made for a good read too (pun intended)

What I gathered from this experiment was:

  1. People like to get into the depth of a character, which they feel is missing in a short story.
  2. Short stories lack meat.
  3. Short stories leave them feeling dissatisfied and incomplete.
  4. Short stories do not engross or connect with the reader the way a novel does.

Point noted. Yet there are many of us who love reading and writing short stories.

  1. Certain ideas lend themselves only to a short story. If stretched beyond capacity, the idea may meander aimlessly in a novel.
  2. The luxury of time. In our busy lives, it is easier to finish a short story at a stretch than read a novel in bits and pieces.
  3. Many novel writers have a short story collection to their credit. Think Edgar Allan Poe, Jhumpa Lahiri, Haruki Murakami, Ernest Hemingway, Roald Dahl, Jeffrey Archer. Alice Munro and O’ Henry are well known for their mastery over the genre.
  4. A well written short story can be as impactful as any longer genre of writing. I have seen flash fiction on Twitter which leaves me awestruck.

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. There is beauty in brevity too. Think of our childhood. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesops Fables, The Panchatantra (book of Indian tales), The Gift of the Magi, The Monkey’s Paw. The list is endless. The short story brought the beauty of books into our lives. It is time to resurrect our old friends who have been cowering in the shadows cast by the dazzle of their novel brethren.

Alisha “Priti” Kirpalani is the author of a “A Smattering Of Darkness: Short and Shorter Twisted Tales,” a collection of short stories of varying lengths encapsulating the grey shades of the human psyche. Her new novel will be released later this year.

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