Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Short Stories

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

A short story is more than a short story. It is an author’s vision of reality written in a focused, brief way. The Romantic poet Edgar Allan Poe, in his review of Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales in Graham’s Magazine, May 1842, wrote:

A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents–he then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. . . In the whole composition there should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one preestablished design. . . Undue brevity is just as exceptionable here as in the poem, but undue length is yet more to be avoided.

Poe argued that “unity of impression” is of primary importance; the most effective story is one that can be read at a single sitting. The short story writer should deliberately subordinate everything in the story–characters, incidents, style, and tone–to bringing out of a single, preconceived effect or thesis. The tale may be made a vehicle for a great variety of these effects than even the short poem.