Short Stories and Resolutions
By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian
We are now fully entrenched in the new year, and I’m sure only a month or two away from not having to turn 7s into 8s when writing 2018. This is also the time of year when New Year’s resolutions begin to fall to the wayside at an astonishing rate. It doesn’t have to be that way, however, and the library can help.
I prefer to make resolutions throughout the year because New Year’s resolutions often feel forced. But New Year’s resolutions can still be a fun test of your willpower, and they allow you to be a more engaging participant in the inevitable conversations surrounding resolutions.
One of my resolutions this year is to write one short story each month. By June, I will have changed it to writing two short stories a month, to make up for not having written anything yet. That’s the nice thing about resolutions: they aren’t set in stone and you get to make the rules.
Short stories are great because, as you may have guessed from their name, they’re a quick read. You don’t need to commit yourself to an entire book. Rather than sitting down and reading a chapter, only to be forced to put the book down to go about your life, not knowing where the story may lead until you’re able to pick the book back up again, short stories allow you to experience an entire story in one sitting. They cut to the chase and get you to the third act before bedtime.
One of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut, and my introduction to him was his collection of short stories in “Welcome to the Monkey House.” It is a collection of stories written early in his career for a variety of magazines and they showcase the wit, satire, and black humor that can be found in his writing throughout his career.
“Trigger Warning” is Neil Gaiman’s third collection of short stories, and in the introduction he provides commentary for each story. As someone who is trying to write my own short stories, I appreciate a glimpse behind the curtain. This collection contains stories set in the worlds of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes, but my favorite is the bedtime story “Click-Clack the Rattlebag.”
When it comes to seeing behind the curtain, “The Curiosities” and the follow-up, “The Anatomy of Curiosity,” both collections by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff, provide even more commentary on the writing process as a whole. “The Curiosities” began as a blog and a way for the authors to experiment with ideas outside of their current projects. The authors introduce their stories, provide commentary throughout, and make comments on the other author’s stories.
“The Anatomy of Curiosity” expands on this idea, with each author writing a single story and providing more extensive commentary on a specific topic, like world building, in the form of marginalia. It is entertaining while also being insightful and educational. I also got to use the word “marginalia,” an opportunity that doesn’t come up as often as it should.
Another unique short story concept can be found in “FaceOff” and “MatchUp,” pairing bestselling thriller authors and bringing their characters into the same stories. I grew up reading Goosebumps books, so the most interesting pairing for me is found in the story “Gaslighted,” that pits Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast against R. L. Stine’s Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy. “MatchUp” is the sequel that changes things up by pairing female and male authors together, like Lisa Scottoline and Nelson DeMille or Sandra Brown and C. J. Box.
These are just a few of the books I’m looking at to find inspiration for my own short stories. And I haven’t even mentioned all of the books we have at the library on the topic of writing, like “Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence” or “How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times.”
It can be tempting to let your resolutions fall to the wayside as the year progresses, but there’s nothing wrong with tweaking them to fit your current needs. And regardless of your resolution, the library has books and classes to help, whether it involves exercise, preparing for retirement, or technology. We’ve even got a series on being a better adult starting on Tuesday, February 13 with a class on renting vs. buying a home, followed by classes on basic first aid, presentations by the police and fire departments, and gardening.