Short Stories; Do You Read Them?

I suppose we should first decide what constitutes a short story. Roughly, because these things tend to be a matter of opinion rather than fact, a short story is a work of fiction with a word count somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000.

So, do you read them? It’s clear lots of readers do. I belong to a submissions website called Duotrope, which currently lists a little under 5,000 publications accepting short fiction submissions, which suggests there are enough readers to justify writing such stories.
I’ve written (and read) short stories for almost as long as I can remember: of course, I’m now at that age where memory can be a little unreliable, but I’m pretty certain I’ve had a good number of short stories published (I’ve even published a couple of anthologies), and have written even more. But I haven’t written or submitted a short story for quite a long time.
Until recently.
I became re-acquainted with a small press magazine I used to subscribe to regularly and where I’ve had a few short stories published in the past. Scribble is a print only A5 size mag publishing around 15 short stories in each quarterly issue. Subscribers vote on all the stories in each edition and the editor then awards cash prizes to those placed 1st to 3rd. It’s published by Park Publications, who also produce a few other literary periodicals. The stories are surprisingly good. I say ‘surprisingly’ simply because these aren’t household names in the main but writers who most readers will never otherwise encounter. The annual subscription for 4 magazines is £17 for UK readers and £25 for those from overseas, including postage.

All the above was prompted by the fact that, having read the last few issues, I decided to submit a short story for the first time in years. It’s been accepted and appears in the current issue, Winter 2021. And that simple event spurred me into reminding writers (and readers) that short stories really are worth exploring, especially if you’ve never given them a chance.

27 thoughts on “Short Stories; Do You Read Them?

    1. Thanks, Lynette. You’re not alone in reading less, unfortunately. It is a pastime that is sadly in decline. So many other means of enjoying entertainment are now available, and much of our time is spent on social networking, too!

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            1. I don’t think I was ever in a situation where my employment impinged on my free time, Lynette. The one possible exception was during my time in the Unemployment Benefit Service, when the mother of a claimant discovered my home address and knocked on our door one Saturday demanding to know where her son’s benefit cheque was. I politely told her I had no idea and wouldn’t have until I was back at work on Monday and had access to the computer system. I also explained that her behaviour would be seen as harassment by the authorities and advised her not to repeat her action, but that I would look into the matter on my return to work. Of course, there were situations where I was called in from home due to some sort of emergency, but they were few and always involved extra payment for time spent.
              These days, many employers seem to think their employees are at their beck and call 365 days a year. Not good for mental health, of course, and the evidence is that such stress reduces the efficiency of employees.
              I’m so glad I’m now retired from all that. You’ll soon be joining me in that, and I doubt you’ll miss it for a moment.

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              1. Yikes! Someone showing up at your door like that is scary in the sense that you start to wonder who else has your address and how stable they are, but I have had that happen as well (only once, though).

                There’s starting to be a move in the labour standards here towards the idea of curtailing or controlling work intrusion into personal time. My personal time is rarely my own and I’m frequently dealing with employee issues (it’s not usually customer issues) during holidays and weekends. To some extent that’s understandable as I’m in an industry with very exacting labour and employee standards and requirements, especially around safety, but much of the time it’s about an employee who’s being a selfish twit. I will continue to do my best until I retire, but my, I’m certainly looking forward to it!

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                1. It was a big family, and they lived quite close, Lynette. One of them had followed me home on my walk from the office. It never happened again.
                  Intrusion by employers into personal time is an issue that needs to be dealt with by legislation, as companies are always looking for ways to cut costs due to competition, of course. It’s a false economy; reducing the efficiency of those who work for the company by denying them time to relax and recover from the day’s stresses.
                  It’ll take a little time to fully realise you’re free of such things once you retire, but it’s a blessed relief once it happens!

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  2. Dear Stuart,

    I used to read a lot more short stories. In recent years, I am more inclined to imagine them in my head, and a few of them were written, even fewer were published. One of them is entitled “🎧 Facing the Noise & Music: Playgrounds for Biophobic Citizens 🏗🌁🗼“, in which I have endeavoured to give a very good inkling of the kind of society that humans might be heading towards.

    Pushing forward another 50 years or (much) fewer, we could indeed end up in the scenario as described in my said post. I am keen and curious about what you will make of my said post.

    Yours sincerely,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read your imagined potential account of a future with interest, SoundEagle. My novella, The Methuselah Strain, explores the same fixation with hedonism and is set in an undated future on Earth. My latest novel, An Excess Of…, takes a more brutal look at the near future (some 10 years hence) where hedonism has to take a back seat to survival, however, due to the climate crisis and the developing evolution of Covid.

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  3. I’ll have to check out that publication. People read short stories and novels for different reasons, usually it is a time issue, but a good short story can allow thoughts to linger long after the story is over.
    In my short story collection, the shortest story is 175 words, and the longest is 3940. Sometimes it can be challenging to write short stories, but aren’t short stories just novels without all the fixin’s?

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    1. I agree about the time issue for many readers, Leon. Strictly speaking, a short story generally deals with a single issue and often with a limited character cast, whereas a novel is generally an exploration of relationships among several characters facing a number of barriers. But that’s a generalisation, of course and there will always be exceptions.
      As to length, I’ve written everything from 6 words to 10,000 in the form of a short story. I’ve found entering literary contests is a useful way of improving the writer’s skill in this area, too.

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      1. I think writing short stories is a good exercise to practice being more concise in writing. Today I had a go at writing a 500-word story. It was actually a fun exercise.

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        1. I agree, Darlene. Short stories encourage brevity, in the same way writing poetry enhances the writer’s facility with simile and metaphor.


  4. I remember enjoying reading the short stories that we had to study at school, though I’ve never actually had a go at making one myself. I think it must be hard to keep an idea within the word limit, so I admire the people that can do it! : )

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    1. I’m generally quite expansive in my fiction, Wryter. My novels tend to be quite lengthy. But the idea behind a short story is to deal with one incident that has some effect on the protagonist in such a way that it changes his/her attitude/ideas/actions. If you concentrate on it that way, you’ll be surprised what you can achieve. Have a go!

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