The pleasure of short stories
Lately I’ve been on a short story writing binge. Partly that’s because I have a novel on submission, and I can spend my excess energy drinking or writing short stories and it seems more healthy to write. (I am working on a new novel as well, but I have a lot of excess energy.) But I have also come to realize how much I enjoy reading short stories. (I keep a copy of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in my pocketbook for emergency situations.) One of the things I like about stories is that you can write them and finish them in a confined period of time. Generally it takes me about three months to write one, and then about six months to sell one, which, in the publishing business, is about as close to immediate gratification as you’re going to get. I also like the way you can be experimental with a short story. For example, I am intrigued by families of serial killers. This is probably because I grew up down the road from Joel Rifkin (Long Island’s worst serial killer) and one of the things I found fascinating about that whole thing was that after he was convicted, his mother continued to live in the house in which the murders took place. Which was a rather mundane looking split level house. What is it like to live in such proximity to evil? What do you know or make sure you don’t know? What choices do you make? I considered writing a novel with the protagonist the daughter of a serial killer. But I was concerned that it would be hard to get the readers to commit to such a character. Would it all be too creepy for a commercial novel? But with a short story, I have no such concerns. So the woman I sent off to Tahiti (in the story I mentioned yesterday) is grappling with the fact that she is leaving behind a father who is being sentenced to prison for murder. Do you like short stories? Which are some of your favorites?