P.S.- A Study in Short Stories

Perhaps, Confession, would be the more appropriate title for today’s post.  As high minded and noble a goal as  I have for quality writing and saying I am not going to worry about publishing, what did I do yesterday? Went to the bookstore and came away with the 2012 Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.   Does that make me a hypocrite or set me up for another mid-summer melt down? Neither I hope.  It could well be NEXT summer before I get through all the dos and don’ts it has to offer.  

In the mean time, I had an interesting lecture from Edgar Allen Poe on the elements of a good short story. I never considered Mr. Poe as having much to offer beyond the macabre. I was surprised and pleased at his serious and helpful analysis.   He should know, he was a master of the short story.  Here are the notes I jotted from Poe’s lecture. I call them “Poe’s five commandments. They were taken from  The Great English Short Story Writers by Frank Richard Stockton.

it must be short- capable of being read at one sitting- ‘the immense force derivable from totality’

it should aim as a single or unique effect- ‘if the initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then it has failed in its first step.’

The short-story must be subjected to compression- ‘in the whole composition there should not be one word written of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.’

it must assume the aspect of verisimilitude; ‘truth is often, and in very great degree, the aim of the tale’

it must give the impression of finality- the story, and the interest in the characters which it introduces, must begin with the opening sentence and end with the last.


If any reader would care to read my latest short stories and test them against those five commandments of the master, ask me! I will send you an e-copy. Having read them, throw  me every rotten tomato in your critical arsenal.  I am ready and eager to be pushed to a higher standard.

The stories available are-

A Hope and a Future– post Civil War setting- started out being a 1,000 word romance, turned into a 4,422 word mixture of realism, romance and family values story. Gwen’s comment  -“I can feel the Christian values and love in that small family, I love Esther. I get a feel for the Midwestern town and the people in your few sentences. I think this is one of my favorite short stories that you’ve sent me.”

A Guest in the House–  word count 4,750- When a friend from high school read  this her comment was-“I can’t believe this came out of your brain!”

THWAP, and Other Things that Fly– word count 1,977- a grandson story, title suggested by my son- super heroes are alive and well, evil villains get what they deserve.

Dead Cat– word count 1,974- no cats (or boys) are harmed or die in this story-

Oma’s Pencils–  word count 1,555- a granddaughter story-it is magic!

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