Rabia Gale breaks fairy tales and fuses science fiction and fantasy. She recently published Shattered: Broken Fairy Tales, a collection of three short stories. A native of Pakistan, she currently resides in Northern Virginia. Visit her online at http://www.rabiagale.com.
Why I Write Short Stories
by Rabia Gale
As a new writer, I wrote short stories only as practice for greater things, like the long, complicated novels that were my first love. Now, though, I write short stories because I’ve grown to love them for their own sake.
The instant gratification factor of short stories is a big attraction. After spending months laboring over a first draft or a brutal revision, it’s nice to write a complete story in a few sessions. That’s not to say that some short stories don’t simmer in my backbrain for a while before I commit them to paper. Because a short story doesn’t have a lot of wiggle-room for extraneous words, I mentally try and discard many different approaches to my story idea before hitting upon the right one. Months, or even years, can pass between that first flicker of a short story premise and when I actually write it.
I am more willing to experiment with a short story. Sometimes that takes the form of writing outside my preferred genres. Or I can write in an unusual point-of-view or tense (such as second person and present tense). Short stories also give me the opportunity to share headspace with an unlikeable protagonist. All these would be difficult to sustain over the course of a novel, but are intriguing novelties in a short story.
Sometimes I have ideas that are too small for novels. These tightly-focused ideas would become diluted and dulled in the tens of thousands of words in a novel. Or perhaps there is one moment that I want to build up to, or one particular emotional response I want to evoke in my reader. Occasionally—though humor is not my forte—I have a punchline I want to showcase. In these cases, I turn to the short story form as the best vehicle for my idea.
I also pay greater attention to my prose when writing short stories. In a novel, I am forgiven a less-than-stellar sentence or two, as long as the story is exciting and the writing competent. In a short story, every sentence needs to do an exceptional job. Short stories help me hone my writing style.
Do you read or write short stories? What do you like about them?