Guys like Michel de Montaigne and Charles Lamb are cited in Wikipedia, but few will know them unless drilling into the footnote of an Ivy League lit text. These are usually aimed at a group of specific people who share common credentials or beliefs, and often start with a pre-emptive warning, an “Open Letter to…” I remember reading Roy Childs, Jr.’s “Objectivism and the State, an Open Letter to Ayn Rand,” in which he parsed no words for the provocative Ms. And then there’s the literary legend himself, the late great Ernest Hemingway, who told the shortest story ever, maybe at Harry’s Bar in Venice, California.
Lore has it he collected $100 after betting $10 per person to ten enraptured friends that he could draw tears from his short story of merely six words: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” Whoever would have guessed you have so many choices to choose from to launch your story into orbit around the literary sphere.
For this reason, it is common for short stories to run in commercial magazines and get bound into anthologies with their brethren and sisters.
Because of the shortness of the format, a short story usually revolves around a single character, a discreet event, or an isolated happening – with a simple and direct story arch, often a moral or lesson.
A bunch of such titles can fill a literary piece to compare styles.
The sixties and seventies had some that were adapted into movies since they were considered to be sensitive times. Then again sci-fi was a much smaller niche than now and much of the prognostication fell flat, but that is how the topics are still discussed which says something.Essays, Epistles, Flash Fiction & More If it’s under 1000 words, it’s an essay, though it might be an essay by a different color and gait.An essay typically unfurls a focused discussion of any topic, from concrete to abstract, that expresses the author’s personal viewpoint. White, with his “Once more to the lake,” Virginia Woolf and her “Death of the Mother,” or even Robert Ebert, the late great Chicago Tribune film critic, who penned “Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Also residing on the 1000-word-or-less medium are the more esoteric epistles or letters or missives, the latter reserved for the angry at heart. As a mostly modern incantation, nor should we forget so-called “flash fiction” pieces that might also be described as “very short stories” or humorously as “short short stories” (humorously because brevity shuns repetition) or postcard fiction or micro-fiction…or whatever name fits around a narrow-waisted tale that might be told around a campfire or tea or brewski in few words, but yet still contains the essential features of a little book.The Short Story The classic short story runs between 35 words.Assuming there are 325 words on a typical paperback book page, that’s 11 to 23 pages.They may shy away from philosophical novels, but at the same time the most successful are used to lure readers into philosophy of study. Being able to bounce comments off an author on the site is also nice.The decade as a whole is going to be another bookmark soon. Social criticism lends itself to analysis by both fiction and nonfiction so it may be easier to convey through the essay. Was there an unexpected claim that became convincing? The novel is not used for speech making, but the characterization can be strong enough that the whole perspective gets across somehow. Or does it talk directly to the reader’s experience the way nothing else has? Or was another so affected that they used it as the base of their philosophy?And of course there’s the matter of times and places.These beget norms, and what people did 60 years ago following World War II, or even 25 years ago before the internet revolution, simply doesn’t translate to today’s world of multi-tasking, infinite choices, and throbbing impatience.