The Power of Short Stories

Olivia S (Year 11), Chief Contributor

As an avid reader, I’ve always been drawn to short stories. Whether this be to add to my “have read list”, or to get some inspiration on how to build engaging characters and a nail-biting plotline to boost my creative writing … I absolutely love them!  

Novels frequently receive more attention than short stories. Even though longer works are unquestionably important, short stories should always be acknowledged as a crucial source of literary brilliance and social and historical significance. 

As I’m writing this, I’m looking up at my bookshelf across from me, and there are numerous books that are classified as “short stories” that I love: A Clockwork Orange, The Great Gatsby, my book full of classic supernatural stories, and, as I’m sure one of my teachers will be pleased with, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The range and value of short stories is incomparable.  

No matter how long or short, good or awful, stories explore universal ideas that build a world society can relate to. In terms of writing, a good story can be told in any number of words; even if the plotline is the same, the details may be different… sometimes that’s where the importance lies. Writers often have the mindset that plot length = plot success, but I think they’ve got it wrong.  

The stories we tell don’t necessarily have to be lengthy and complicated, despite the fact that many of the themes we deal with are. People can quickly grasp the main idea of a story, in part because we are accustomed to the format and in part because general people can fill in the blanks. You don’t have to stress every detail. 

Making something too long, too thorough, or too “comprehensive” can come out as strenuous, a ‘hard read’ or even patronising. Every day, we all have conversations in which we quickly assess their relevance and level of interest to the people surrounding us. We are all skilled communicators, which can be the problem with storytelling as humans innately keep wanting to say more, though our words may be scrambled and empty.  

In no way am I diminishing the value of longer novels, however, as I mentioned earlier, short stories are so often overlooked! We all grew up on short stories (more specifically, fairy tales, like Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and so many more), all of which encompass so much literary value such as entertainment and general life lessons- the main one being not to go walking alone in the woods, apparently.  

Short stories are the epitome of quality over quantity.  So, if you’re looking for some entertainment, writing inspiration, a better understanding of how to write concisely, the satisfaction of finishing a story and an exposure to different narrative styles (I could go on for a while), then I would highly recommend getting into short stories!