Reasons for a Short Story
What is the big deal about short stories? Why have them? Why do readers prefer the short story over a full blown novel? First, let me say that novel length manuscripts have NOT gone by the wayside. There are still vast numbers of people (myself included) who read the thousands of wonderful books out there. Yet, short stories are on the rise. More and more readers are turning to the short story. What is different today, then let’s say 40 years ago? Are there reasons the short story is more popular to day?
Short Attention Spans & Time
It has been said that our attention spans are shrinking, therefore our desire to sit a read a four hundred page novel has also shrunk. One study suggested that our attention span has dropped to a mere 8 seconds. The statistics were published in Time magazine, the Telegraph, the Guardian, USA Today, the New York Times and the National Post. Since 2015, that theory has been debunked.
Another angle is we just have too many choices (think mega-stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, or coffee shops like Starbucks). When I walk into a coffee shop with a menu the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica I can’t make a clear decision so I order coffee and leave. Quick, easy, and black.
Time, for many people, is a huge culprit. Busy lives can drain away minutes, hours, days, and weeks before we realize that the time has gone by. Careers and family obligations alone can drain the day away. When there is only twenty minutes left for reading, a novel is challenging to get through.
Whatever the reasons, a short story can fill the tiny gaps in our day. They are usually quick reads that are satisfying, and packed with meaning. Short story writers learn early on how to keep a tale riding on a tight rope. They are a trapeze artist walking a narrow path with the reader, their audience, holding their collective breath. When the artist reaches that last sentence the audience erupts with applause.
There is always the quick gratification that is gotten through a short story. A reader can sit and finish a full bodied story in about an hour.
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