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September 2011
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By David Hood

The art of the short story is to share truth about the human condition or human nature. It is also to entertain and provide pleasure to the reader. A well written short story fulfills these dual obligations.

So the aspiring writer needs to be able to write a short story that shares a truth about the human condition and is also entertaining.

To do this, the aspiring writer needs to learn the craft of writing fiction. One of the ways to learn the craft is by reading as a writer.

How do you read like a writer? You must read like a writer by analyzing the short story or novel, understanding how the writer employs the elements of fiction, like setting, character, plot.

Reading like a writer also enables you to learn how the writer begins and ends a story, and uses dialogue, figurative language, and much more to tell the story. These are the techniques of fiction.

Reading like a writer also enables you to learn the writing style of great writers, such as Hemingway, Faulkner, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro. You can learn how to use a sentence fragment, how to create a periodic sentence, a loose sentence.

Only by reading and analyzing lots of short stories will you be able to write a good short story, perhaps a great short story, that entertains your readers. Entertaining fiction gets published.

Here are 15 short stories that you should read and analyze:

  1. Eveline by James Joyce
  2. Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
  3. A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner
  4. The Lady with the Pet Dog by Anton Chekhov
  5. To Build a Fire by Jack London
  6. Death by Landscape by Margaret Atwood
  7. The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
  8. Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe.
  9. A Story of An Hour by Kate Chopin
  10. Lust by Susan Minot
  11. Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor
  12. It’s Hard to Find a Good Man by Flannery O’Connor
  13. Alaska by Tom Franklin
  14. Bullet to the Brain by Tobias Wolf
  15. The Swimmer by John Cheever

You can read these short stories in the following anthologies:

  • The Art of the Short Story by Dana Gioia & R.S. Gwynn
  • On Writing Short Stories, edited by Tom Bailey
  • The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction

Reading Like a Writer

You can also learn how to read like a writer by reading Francine Prose bestselling book “Reading Like A Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for those Who Want to Write Them.”

This book should be read by everyone that wants to write a short story or novel.

Additional Resources

To help you learn the craft of writing a short story or novel, you should read the following:

  • On Writing Short Stories, Edited by Tom Bailey
  • Writing Fiction by Jane Burroway
  • Writing Fiction from Gotham Writer’s Workshop
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
  • Woe is I by Patricia T. O’Connor
  • The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed [Hardcover] by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.
  • Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  • Norton Anthology of Short Fiction
  • The Art of the Short Story by Dana Gioia & R.S. Gwynn
  • Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

To become a successful fiction writer, you must learn the craft of writing fiction. Learning the craft of fiction allows you  to use the various fictional techniques of storytelling. One of the best ways to learn the craft of fiction, is not by enrolling in an MFA Program in Creative Writing or taking a fiction writing workshop, it is by reading and analyzing the classics and other good fiction. In other words, you must learn to read like a writer.

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2 Comments

  1. Raman Chopra says:

    Wow, you sure know your way around short stories. Hi there, First time visitor and Impressed…:)

  2. Hello Dave I visited your website today because I am researching a theme for an artists book edition I am about to create. I am endeavoring to extend my thinking laterally —-couldn’t help but notice that you don’t have a “headder” for your blog !!! If you would like to use on of my artworks or part of one – you would be more than welcome…just a thought. http://www.ainescannell.com

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