How to write short stories/novellas

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short storiesShort stories seem to be making a comeback both from existing writers (see Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher) as well as the unexpected (like the actor Jesse Eisenberg). They are obviously very different to novels, as explained wonderfully by Jane Gardem here:

“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave. In a novel you make preparations. You lay in for a siege, carrying a flickering lantern. For a short story you need to carry a blow-lamp for a building site.”

If you want to write short stories and don’t know where to start, here’s a quick guide:Continue Reading

Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis; sad, funny and a bit nuts

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metamorphosisMy rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

I read a review this week on the great book blog It’s All About Books of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis about a man who wakes up one morning and finds he has turned into an insect. She didn’t love the book but like all good book blogs, I was intrigued by the review. It sounded like something I would love; quirky, interesting, funny, well-written and a bit nuts. I wasn’t wrong.

There’s a good analysis of the book here, regarding Kafka’s feelings of alienation and jewish ancestry (better than the normally good wiki analysis here) and it’s just – in my opinion – a great short story that means so much more. Like The Lottery and The Alchemist, both of which I’ve read lately about completely different aspects of human nature, short stories really can sometimes be so much more powerful than longer ones; they’re quicker to read and they can leave a greater impression.


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Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”; a chilling allegory of conformity

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the lotteryMy rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

First published in 1948 in the New Yorker, The Lottery is a brilliantly written allegory about society, conformity and tradition. The very short story (32 pages) follows a small village as they gather for their annual lottery, each person taking a slip of paper from a box where the winner will be the recipient of a rather unorthodox and brutal prize.Continue Reading