Why short stories are a fast track to creating your own ideas and narratives.
Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash
Reading is good for you. I think we can all agree on that.
The problem is, that most of us have to leaf through loads of books at school that we really don't want to. Not only are we forced to read a gazillion boring textbooks, but we also have to read WHOLE NOVELS, often about things that seem to have little resonance with our daily lives.
So pretty quickly, many of us are put off reading fiction for life.
I remember a particularly arduous year at school. However compelling my English teacher tried to make it, with the best will in the world, I just could not get through Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. It wasn't the subject matter, just the sheer density of the book itself (and not the reader, I hope). I would turn up to English lessons praying I didn't get asked a question on the chapter we'd been told to read. Sod's law, I often would be.
It seems I'm not alone in this. This great blog by Sarah Pinault on Wired.com gives a potted history of her relationship with Tess since school. Spoiler alert: there's a happy ending.
The point though is that reading long novels takes commitment. Inspiring they may well be... if you can make it to the end. But aside from our increasingly goldfish-like attention spans, many of us just don't have the time to get through a breeze block paperback. We want inspiration asap. Which, of course, is what we're all about here at Faster Ideas.
Hence, short stories. They are a great way of stimulating the same processes in our brain as long-form storytelling - without the need for the days/weeks required to get over the finish line.
With a short story, it's highly likely you'll be motivated to finish it if it only takes 10-15 minutes. It can be consumed alongside a coffee or lunch break. Or on a walk (when you take a breather). And even absorbed on an old school commute, if that ever becomes a thing again.
When you finish a short story, ideally you've enjoyed it. But it doesn't really matter whether you did or didn't, because your brain is now in a storytelling mode: Did you identify with the characters? Did the story resonate? If not, how would you have done it differently? Was the ending unexpected? What mood or emotion are you left with? Does it remind you of anything? How would you write the sequel?
The connections in your brain are firing - and that's where your own ideas can really start to form their own narrative.
It's also a great way to take a quick dive into different worlds - perhaps allowing you to get into the headspace of the audience, genre or subject matter of the project you're working on.
For example, if you were working for an overseas client or project, you might read a short story set in their country. Maybe one that tells a part of its history, so you understand a bit more about their culture. You could be working with a youth client perhaps - so try some young adult short fiction.
We've also got the benefit of having short stories at the end of our digital fingertips. There are dozens of websites where you can access short stories for free. ebookfriendly.com has a great list here of the best sites to read short stories including sites like Project Gutenberg & The New Yorker.
These sites make it easy to search by genre, subject, or country to find something to inspire you at the right moment. We've also listed some great short story suggestions below - all available on our Bookstore shelf.
If you find reading anything painful, then you can obviously get loads of short stories on audiobook platforms like Audible. But check out places like Spotify too - just pop 'short stories' into the search. There are literally 1000s.
In the meantime, let us leave you with this summation of short stories, from writer Neil Gaiman (via goodreads.com):
'A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick - a couple of thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.'
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