Arthur Conan Doyle is perhaps best known for his short stories that feature his sleuth Sherlock Holmes. Holmes appears in novels, too, of course, but most of his appearances are in short stories. In fact, my first introduction to Holmes was the short story The Red-Headed League, in which pawnbroker Jabez Wilson engages Holmes to solve the mystery behind his mysterious new job copying an encyclopaedia. Holmes agrees and finds out that Wilson has been duped by a gang of bank robbers.
While Agatha Christie is best known for her novels (I believe I’ve mentioned her novels once or twice on this blog ;-) ), she also wrote a number of short stories. One collection, Poirot Investigates, details some of Hercule Poirot’s early investigations, all told from Captain Hastings’ point of view. Christie also wrote other collections such as Murder in the Mews that don’t include Hastings, and several, including The Harlequin Tea Set and Other Stories that don’t feature Poirot at all. And then there’s Miss Marple’s Final Cases and Two Other Stories, that features Miss Marple, and Partners in Crime, that features Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Christie wrote a number of other short story collections, including The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories and The Regatta Mystery and Other Stories.
Other authors that we think of as novelists also write short story collections. For instance, Dorothy Sayers wrote several short stories after the publication of Busman’s Honeymoon. In them, she detailed the continuing adventures of Lord Peter Wimsey and his wife, novelist Harriet Vane and their children. She also, of course, wrote short stories that don’t feature the Wimsey family at all.
Lots of more modern novelists such as Ross MacDonald, Ruth Rendell and Martin Edwards also write short stories. It takes a particular kind of writing talent and style to make a short story memorable, so when an author can write both novels and short stories quite well, that’s noteworthy.
In recent years, there’s even shorter fiction available. For instance, Patti Abbott and Steve Weddle’s Discount Noir features flash fiction – very short stories. The Drabble, which has been mastered by Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere, tells a story in exactly 100 words. And Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in 25 Words or Fewer shows off the talents of authors who can tell a very short story – in just a few sentences.
The beauty of these short styles of story is that they allow an elegant and precise use of words that reach the reader immediately. Readers can experience the work of lots of different authors, too. But what do you think? What do you see as the role of the short story, the flash fiction story, or even the micro-story?
And Now It’s Your Turn…
I would love to read your writing. So I’ve decided to feature your stories on an upcoming post that I’m calling Fifty Words to Kill Your Victim. If you’d like to be a part of this, here’s what I’m proposing:
Create a murder story in exactly 50 words. Email your story to me at docjockey(at)yahoo(dot)com (or simply click the “Email Me” button on my sidebar). Please don’t post your story as a comment, because I’d like to share everyone’s stories at the same time on a post. Please Email me your story by Saturday, 13 November.
On Sunday 14 November/Monday 15 November, I’ll post everyone’s stories so you all can enjoy each other’s work.
If you’d like to share more than one story, that’d be great, too. I sure hope to hear from you!!
Here are a few stories I’ve done, to show you what I have in mind:
“Hurry up with that beer!” he bellowed. “You’re so slow!”
“Coming,” she called.
“Well, move it, then, bitch!”
She put the beer on the coffee table in the living room littered with his debris.
He took a long swig and fell over.
Weed killer works wonders on messes.
They stopped outside of her building.
“Like to come in for a drink?” she asked
“Oh, no, I –”
He smiled. “All right, just one.”
He followed her up the stairs to the third floor, fingering the knife in his coat.
She’d be even easier than the others.
Sandler’s body landed with a sickening thud on the pavement.
Within minutes, an ambulance crew arrived to whisk the body away.
Everyone was shocked – no-one had known how depressed Sandler was.
On the tenth floor of the building, Hutchins sat in his office grinning to himself.
Now who’d fired whom?
“Excuse me, could I just step by and –”
“Get out of my way, you cow! I was here first!”
“But I only wanted to reach that box of cereal.”
“Get the hell out of my way until I’m good and ready to move!”
Clean up on Aisle 7!
So how about it? Want to give it a try? C’mon…it’ll be fun!!
*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Natasha Beddingfield’s Unwritten.