Tuesday, 23 August 2011


I’ve spent the last few weeks grappling with the concept of what constitutes a good short story. This is in preparation for my forthcoming MA as short stories seem to be a major component of the modules I’ve chosen.

I’m still bogged down by the mammoth reading list and finding some of the short stories challenging to say the least because they are not the sort of thing I enjoy or would read by choice. (I prefer to read light-weight chick lit and escapist stuff with happy endings and my writing style probably reflects my innate superficial proclivities).

Jackie Kay said in Mslexia that the best short stories should be ‘unnerving’ – but at this stage in my writing career I can’t say that I am drawn to ‘the unnerving’ and I’m still suffering the toxic after-effects of William Burroughs’s psychotic snippets in Naked Lunch.

Do you agree with Jackie Kay - should short stories be unnerving?

What do you think a ‘good’ short story should be like??

What is your favourite short story and why???

In my research on the subject of short stories I came across these suggestions on the link below – and you can access the podcasts too.



Ewarwoowar said...

Hi Sue,

Interesting post. I'm not certain that a good short story has to be "unnerving", but I understand what Kay means.

Do you remember doing a short story by Joyce Carol Oates at uni entitled "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" I thought that was an excellent short story, and certainly was unnerving.

You have reminded me to enter the short story competition you advertised on here a few weeks ago, so thankyou for that! Need to get writing!

Sue's Blog said...

The Joyce Carol Oates was certainly unnerving and I did not appreciate Hemmingway’s Hills like White Elephants until we discussed it in class.
There are no set guidelines for the short story competition, so I have no idea what they are expecting.
Good luck with your entry!

Dan said...

Hi Sue,

I agree with Ewar, not all stories need to be unnerving. I like unnerving stuff, but only because I find it tends to move me more or forces a reaction. There's a line with unnerving though. Burroughs is just a bit mental, really and seems to suffer from chucking-everything-in-to-make-it super-odd-itis. I wouldn't worry about not getting him too much.

There's another competition at the Birmingham Book Festival if you're interested. The theme is clocks. (Link - http://www.birminghambookfestival.org/short-story-comp-2012/)

Further to your link, here's another one you might to be able to make use of: http://www.mixcloud.com/newyorker/ I love that, hopefully you'll get some use out of it too.

Good luck with your MA.


Sue's Blog said...

Brill - thanks Dan and all the best to you.