One of the fastest ways to learn how to write short stories is to read and analyze the best ones to find out what made them so great and use that knowledge to write your owns masterpieces.
There is no rhyme or reason, no theme or genre, no poll or opinions, just one man’s list displaying often celebrated and interesting short stories. Junot Diaz put together the best American short stories a couple of years ago if you would be more interested in a Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s list. Who could blame you? Take a look at my list of top 10 short stories, and what makes them special.
Neil Gaiman told us short stories are like tiny windows into other worlds. They can take us on journeys but have us back in time for dinner.
Oh, by the way, try writing your short stories backward. Start with the big twist and work to the beginning. Always have fun. There is only one you and there is only right now.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
An interesting little story that makes you think deeply about society’s trouble with difference and fears of what is not understood and what can happen if the basic structure of difference is meddled with. Sci-fi in nature and dystopian in environment Harrison is a cautionary tale that we all hope is unnecessary because of the ridiculousness of such a state.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
Even nonreaders have probably heard what this story is about. It should still be read, and read. There is a great value in deeper understanding and often we come away from a well-written story with a different take than when read the first time.
The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
A wonderful story that fills you with the attitude of the time it was written. Civil war took center stage and all the worrying that comes with that. The country needed a silly light-hearted story but it still had a moral to tell and Mark Twain gave it to us. If you like seeing these lists about short story books join my mailing list. You can find the form in the right-hand column a little above this post.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
I believe this story is seriously woven into the fabric of America. At 11 thousand words it is still a short story and it, of course, is considered to be a horror story. Washington Irving gave us another great story Rip Van Winkle.
The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson
This story gets confused with so many others. It was turned into a movie starring Boris Karloff. It’s fascinating to see what a society thought of our bodies and what they were made of and what the insides looked like in a different time. The culture and traditions of the time add to the scary nature of the story. To think doctors wanted these cadavers so desperately they were willing to look the other way when it was obvious foul play was responsible for some of the bodies they received. Here is more information on Robert Lous Stevenson and his short stories.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
I can’t imagine anyone today not knowing this story but just in case I will offer this very brief synopsis. Man falls in love, loses her, gets rich and mean, ghosts visit and he finds joy in the humanity of life. How he gets there is the entertaining part.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber
Most of us can relate to Walter Mitty. I know I do. I have experienced all manner of daydreams of massive business victories, musical genius, Olympic glory, and many other lives that I fantasized about because the one I was living wasn’t my own. In my dreams, I could do anything. When a boy is mean to a girl my mind goes to work saving her by displaying heroism and fighting abilities Bruce Lee would bow down to.
Instead of living any of those lives I write them. It’s almost as good as my best fantasies.
I Robot by Isaac Asimov
This classic story was put together from many short stories and essays Isaac Asimov published in magazines. The battle so many are sure we will have against artificial intelligence is displayed in a story we can all relate to. In a city where everything is changing around you can make it hard to keep up. Refreshing dialogue comes in the form of a cap we all love. The cop who does his Job for what is right and lawful, not the government. His old-school ways take us on a fast-paced thrill ride. It was finally made into a film that Will Smith stared in that is vastly different than the story written by Asimov but it captures the essence.
The Looking Glass by Anton Chekhov
One story that fits into the class that leads one to think ‘be careful what you wish for’
A nicely short but fast-paced story that I struggle to walk by without reading it in full. I truly love his transition from one to the other reality. Leading to her living or somehow experiencing that other reality
The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway
Probably Hemingway’s best work. It is the story of a man who has done a lot of living but hasn’t accomplished much. Making his way by marrying rich women and trying but failing to be the writer he always felt he could be led to his disappointment with life. With his hunting and adventurous life mirroring his own it is safe to state Hemingway wrote a lot of himself into this man ‘Harry’
Maybe even the great ones think their work isn’t as it should be. The next lesson and story is Step By Step Article Writing