OK – I admit, I love short stories. Ray Bradbury, O. Henry, Dorothy Parker, Saki, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Philip K. Dick, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Shirley Jackson….I was weaned on these authors and they still inspire and influence me. Short stories are the bones and sinews of my writing life, I build most of my novels off short stories, and I use short stories as outlines and to test plots. If a story doesn’t work as a short story – chances are it won’t work as a novel. It might be a strange way to look at things, but some of my longest novels have sprung from short stories. If a short story has a beginning, a middle, and an ending, it also needs characters and an epiphany. The characters have to go through an arc of change – the reader too has to be moved by the story – horror, love, sorrow, laughter…all that has to emerge. What are some of your favorite short stories and why?
Mine are The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Open Window by Saki.
My father was dying, I was back in town, and the Chinese were hanging around like vultures trying to get his store.
“What ever you do, Paolo, don’t sell to the China man.” My father’s voice was broken by his illness. I had to lean close to hear him.
“Don’t worry pa, I won’t sell to no China man.” I tried to reassure him, but he was inconsolable. The thought of his beloved pasta shop falling into the hands of the ‘yellow heathen’ was intolerable for him. He fretted and whined all day long, and in the evening when the doctor came to give him his shots and he fell asleep, I’d go for long walks in the old neighborhood now as unfamiliar as a foreign country. Little Italy looked like Hong Kong.
From my short story ‘China Doll’ in 3 am Magazine