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Stephen King: "What Ails the Short Story"

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by Pulitzer Wannabe, Oct 4, 2007.

  1. Good read:


    Last year, I read scores of stories that felt ... not quite dead on the page, I won’t go that far, but airless, somehow, and self-referring. These stories felt show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open, and worst of all, written for editors and teachers rather than for readers.
  2. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    King's short stories are SO much better than his longer stuff.
  3. I agree. Novels are where the money is, but he's best when he has to get ... to ... the ... point.
  4. zeke12

    zeke12 Guest

    Excepting The Stand, I concur.

    His short stories also have made the best movies (Stand by Me, Shawshank).
  5. The biggest downfall of the modern short story is that there are no plots. No real dramatic tension. That's considered low brow. So you end up with a bunch of MFAs writing for each other.

    You can explore a character's psychological needs AND have a plot. That's what movies do. But short story writers are taught in their MFA programs that it's beneath them.
  6. Precious Roy

    Precious Roy Active Member

    It's interesting that we bring this up, because in college we were told to read King's "On Writing" for our fiction class. I will further echo his statement.
    People that are trying to get published for short stories are writing for slush-pile readers. With a bunch of stuck-up, know-nothings running that show the good pieces head to the garbage while the snooty BS heads on. It's just the nature of the fiction business right now.
    This is the reason I moved over to this business. I wasn't going to make any money either way, but this way I could have some of my stuff actually read by more than three MFAs who love the stench of their own farts.
  7. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

  8. HC

    HC Well-Known Member

    The article linked is King's Intro to "Best American Short Stories 2007" which just arrived from Amazon yesterday. King is this year's guest editor and I'm looking forward to dipping into this.
  9. zeke12

    zeke12 Guest

    I liked It a lot, just don't think it's the equal of The Stand.

    But I'm fine with your edit.
  10. Chi City 81

    Chi City 81 Guest

    Nothing he's written is on equal footing with The Stand. I just think that It is a great book, even though it's more than 1,000 pages. I know buckdub likes it. :D
  11. pallister

    pallister Guest

    I've never read a sentence King has written, much less a short story or 20-pound novel. I do, however, really like Shawshank and Stand by Me as movies, so maybe I should check out some of his non-horror stuff.
  12. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    I think there is a middle ground between what King would prefer and what, say, Richard Ford or John Updike would prefer. Tobias Wolf doesn't always have traditional plots in his short stories, but he's probably the best short story writer we have. And I don't know how often you'll find plots in the short fiction of Denis Johnson, George Saunders or Pam Houston, but none of it is pretentious bullshit written for MFA professors. (And there isn't anything wrong with being an MFA profs; sometimes good writing is supposed to challenge you, not comfort or entertain.)

    You are currently seeing a cadre of writers like Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers and King push back against the literary establishment, which is a good thing, but they've sort of had mixed results.

    Chabon edited a collection of McSweeneys short stories and the very purpose was to harken back to the days of more traditional storytelling. Unfortunately, the book, which I bought, was pretty blah. It wasn't bad, but it made no lasting impression on me at all.

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