Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lake, short stories and

The lake at Groombridge House where  herons fish.


Robbie commenting on my latest seeks a defintion of the short story two posts back, ventures one himself.  His description is spot on but it defines only one aspect of the genre. Here are some reflections quickly put together.
First,  does the term need defining?  Aren't the words "short"  and "story" enough in themselves? How short it is doesn't matter?  One  paragraph can be enough, one word even, why not?  
When I started writing the current series on my blog One Fine Day  almost a year ago I  thought to myself that I  would  dive in and see what happened.  I got the idea from my brother Ken, (aka Lucas). They  were going to be brief  even of their kind (flash fictions, as Lucy called them), because I wanted to produce a lot of them and in a relatively little time. Since then I have come to realise that  the short story of any length is distinguished from the  novel, itself a many splendoured thing,  by concentrating essential information  and in leaving out what is not essential to a single plot. Plays also concentrate information though their plots may be more complex.  That one of the greatest short story writers, Chekhov, is also one of greatest playwrights strikes me as no coincidence. But really what I mean to say is that short stories are what you make them. They can range from the pub joke to the story of the Good Samaritan. They differ from novels not just because they are shorter but because they are less complex, have fewer dimensions and are, as Robbie suggests,  more simply focused.
Their attraction for me lies in the style opportunities they present, that they take relatively little time to write and absorb, and that they can pack quite a punch if necessary despite their weight. Or they can merely be entertaining. At least I hope that this is the case with what I am trying to do.

Persicaria is a plant which is about a lot at the moment. At first I couldn't pin it down. Dock-like leaves and flowers in short spikes, usually purple. A plant beloved of bees which is possibly another explanation  of its popularity with bee conscious gardeners. Now I know that it is one of those plants which has changed the name by which it is generally known. The Readers Digest of Garden Plants and Flowers  calls it polygonum or knot weed, while persicaria is how most nurseries describe it nowadays. Confusing. But I am glad that thanks to a stall at the market I am now enlightened. A useful plant for partial shade.



 

2 comments:

Roderick Robinson said...

Well, that's a start. Unfortunately I cannot rid myself of the feeling that one of the commonalities of short stories is their prose style. I am not well enough informed to define this style and it may in any case be the result of focusing on fewer elements. And it may be the further result of my not having read enough short stories. As I said I kept away from your oeuvre because I felt I had little to contribute. This brief comment may well reinforce that initial feeling.

Joe Hyam said...

I think I see what you mean about style. But style must eventually depend on the stylist and there is a lot of give. An attempt at a definition of the short story is to be found to an extent in the evolving nature of the One Fine Day exercise. Though contributions have been and are welcome, no one is bound to contribute. The prime purpose of the stories is to amuse and entertain while demanding only a little time. The story called The Eye takes less than 30 seconds to read. A Cat's Tale in three parts probably about three and half minutes given a slow reader.