The Virtue of Short Stories

You might have heard the tale before.

One of Ernest Hemingway’s friends once made a bet that he couldn’t write a story out of just six words, but Hemingway proved him wrong with his now famous story: “Baby shoes for sale. Never worn.”

Now this challenge is often used as an exercise for writers. I’ve tried my hand at it a year ago, and then, when it was brought up recently, tried again.

My favorites that I’ve written would probably be: “She hoped that hope would come,” or “Here, the ash rains like snow.”

For some people writing short stories comes easily. Or at least easier than it does more me.

It’s like trying to walk into a room filled with strangers, say something strikingly profound, then say something touching and raw, get people to cry, and walk out – all in under five minutes. Even when I do manage to write short stories, they end up being on the long side of the spectrum.

I’ve been thinking a lot about short stories lately. Partly because my local library is putting on a contest and partly because I’ve been trying to write one for a while now.

They (being a vague reference to published authors I stalk) say that short stories are the real test for good authors. To be able to write just a few pages and still move a reader is a sign of knowing how to use words the way you want. A sign of being concise and powerful.

And that makes perfect sense, but I still struggled to write that dreaded short story.

Oh that moment when I realized the contest had a word limit! A word limit of 2500 words.

But in the end I succeeded in my goal. I didn’t pass the word limit. That is… I wrote 2500 words exactly and sent them off to be raked through.

Now that I think about it, I hope the word limit wasn’t supposed to include the title.

Um… whoops. (: