November 10, 2012

Tessa Hadley gave a class on the short story at Cardiff Central Library.

Top Tips

Here are some tips for writing short stories:

  • Know – or half know – what you are writing towards before you begin.
  • Struggle to find fresh words to do justice to the scene in your imagination. Language is lazy, will try to seduce you into writing a less true, more commonplace, version of your story.
  • Find the right door into your story, and the right door out of it.
  • Your ending is very important – in a way, because stories are so short in the reading experience, it functions almost as the ‘point’ of what you’ve done. But its turn mustn’t be too obvious or noisy. A sideways step, a quiet move onto something new, a new revelation.
  • Find some strong central motif or movement in your story, and don’t overcomplicate.
  • Keep everything in the foreground, leave out as much of the back story as you can.
  • (But: in writing there are exceptions to every rule – you are always free to break them.)

Reading List

Some favourite stories:

Anton Chekhov‘Lady with a Lapdog’, ‘Ward Six’, ‘A Boring Story’, ‘Three Years’
Elizabeth Bowen‘A Summer Night’, ‘Mysterious Kôr’, ‘A Day in the Dark’, ‘The Jungle’
James Joyce‘Dubliners’
Rudyard Kipling‘Plain Tales from the Hills’
John McGahernLavin’, ‘Gold Watch’, ‘The Love of the World’, ‘The Country Funeral’
Jorge Luis Borges‘The Immortal’, ‘Funes the Memorious’, ‘The Witness, ‘Borges and I’
D.H. LawrenceThe Odour of Chrysanthemums’, ‘The Horse Dealer’s Daughter’
Katherine MansfieldPrelude’, ‘At the Bay’, ‘The Dolls’ House’
Ellen GilchristThe Age of Miracles
Nadine GordimerA Soldier’s Embrace and other stories
John UpdikeThe Afterlife and other stories
Alice MunroThe Love of a Good Woman
Colm TóibínThe Empty Family
Claire KeeganWalk the Blue Fields