Five Reasons to Love the Short Story and Shockwave Ridin’

An illustrated guide to my mind.

Going round and round lately on which stories need to be priority after I finish Room 3, but one thing is certain: I’m starting to appreciate the short story in a way that I’ve…well, never quite experienced, even when I was cranking them out back in high school.

Here are my current top reasons for loving short form fiction:

  1. The most obvious – some ideas are just not novel length. There was a time that I’d dismiss such stories out of hand, but no longer. I mean, why not? With short fiction making a comeback, it just makes sense to follow those ideas, as some of them are really quite fun, and I’ve always loved a well-crafted horror short story.
  2. A short story makes it easier to preserve a sense of mystery. Short stories demand an economy of words and, as such, it’s just not a good idea to pontificate too much on this idea or that idea – less is more, in other words, and that includes leaving out every single thing that is not relevant to the story at hand. For instance, in my story The Station, there is an entire backstory to what occurred in The Station during the distant past, but only a handful of events are relevant to the protagonist, so we only see outlines of those events through his eyes. You can tantalize the reader a little more. By the way, if the story ends up teasing you a little too much, City of the Dead will elaborate on some of the mysteries, with the rest becoming clear in Portal of the Dead, where we actually witness those events in the past.
  3. You can explore more of a universe that you’ve created without having to tie it all together. In the case of The Station, I’ve chosen to tie some of those things together, but it’s entirely possible to have a standalone tale within that universe. This allows you to see more of what might be going on in a rather expansive universe, exploring more ideas that might not have fit into a novel.
  4. It’s a lot easier to explore more bizarre concepts, as a story framework ensures that said concept won’t overstay its welcome. This is actually very big for me – I might not be willing to take certain risks in a longer-form work that suddenly become much more attractive when I’m looking at only 20-25 pages.
  5. They’re short. That’s not to say that I don’t throw everything I have into a short story. They often take me more than a month from start to finish with the drafting and polishing process; it’s just that if I need to feel I’ve accomplished something during those long slogs through novels, I can put one out with relative ease, allowing myself some time away from the long-form work and firing my imagination with a new scenario. That’s invaluable.

In other words, expect to see a lot more short fiction from me, including a couple of anthologies at the end of the year.


I’ve updated Found Music again, this time with a fantastic album from Virginia band Shockwave Rider:

Hey, kids! Do you like Big Star? How about Guided by Voices? Maybe Spoon, or Hum? If so, I have a treat for you this week. We’re featuring the defunct Virginia band Shockwave Rider, who kind of fit all of and none of those descriptions.

Shockwave Rider’s The Shining is a big, crunchy, fuzzy bit of rock that never fails to excite me, even with repeated listens. I am a huge Guided by Voices/Bob Pollard fan, and I can’t help but hear their influence most clearly on this album; especially in the first track, King Corduroy, which sounds like it could be an outtake from that band’s 1995 LP Alien Lanes.

If that sounds appealing to you, scoot on over there and check it out.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Bookmark the permalink.


  1. I like short stories cuz you can finish them on the john. 😉

  2. Reader hat on: I love short stories. I love being able to buy singles (as opposed to a magazine or anthology) to get the story I want. I’m tickled as can be that more and more writers are visiting/revisiting the short story and making their offerings available for me to find.

    Writer hat on: I doubt there is a lot of money to be made selling short stories, but there is enough to make the endeavor worthwhile. The side benefits are invaluable. Practice, discipline, skill honing, increasing the size of one’s virtual bookshelf, advertisement for bigger works, and who knows, maybe you’ll compose a real classic, the kind that turns young readers into voracious lifelong readers (as opposed to the kind that makes young readers groan and grumble when it’s assigned in English class).

    Good post.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Very much agreed when I wear my own reader hat. Unless it’s an anthology of a certain author’s work – some of Stephen King’s early anthologies are easily worth their weight in gold. Some great, great stuff in there, and I take some inspiration for my own short work from his style.

      True about making money selling short stories, but at this point it’s not like I’m making money hand over fist anyway 🙂 The benefits you list well outweigh the drawback of a trickle of revenue. It’s just good to get fresh material out there, if nothing else.

      And thank you!

  3. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say again how pleased I am to see a resurrection of the short form. I don’t very often read in the bathroom (ha ha), but I do like that, given my limited reading time, I can finish them in a night or two before bed.

    I have to agree with Jaye on the “writer hat” side. Market seems to dictate that we price them so low that we’re never going to really make a fortune off them, but if they help promote our other work (or in my case, hopefully bait readers along long enough for me to get my next novel), they’re worth it.

    Oh, one more point. You never know when they might become novel length ideas. I wrote a short story back in… whew, 1996… and put it on a shelf. About six years later, I was writing another short story which I realized could actually be a continuation of the short story from ’96. Voila, “The Imaginings” was conceived.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog

    • Jonathan D Allen

      I’m glad to see it, too. For so long it wasn’t commercially viable, and I just didn’t see the point in pursuing it. Not to mention that I wasn’t exactly coming up with bite-sized ideas. I still struggle on that point – I think my worlds will always be a little too expansive to explain everything in just one story, but I’ve figured out how to contain stories within those worlds. That took ages to figure out.

      Hah, funny you say that, actually. Several of my older, unpublished novels began their lives as short stories that just went out of control. Definitely seen it happen.

  4. I’m with Paul: you never know when a short story might become a novel. Stolen Climates was a short story – a writing exercise, no less!

    I also agree with Jaye, that as a reader, I am pleased I can buy a single story without having to wade through all the stuff in a litmag that didn’t interest me.

    You’re right to point out that simply because a story is ‘short,’ doesn’t mean there’s no work involved in crafting one. In fact, they allow less sloppiness, less laziness, and less fewer chances to get it right. I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing – short stories, and otherwise!

    • Jonathan D Allen

      Yep, I love the lean nature of a shorter story – even if that “short” story ends up running to 65 pages. It’s important to consider every sentence in the story. And thank you! 🙂 Very interested in seeing how your serial idea works out.

  5. I like your thoughts on the subject, Jonathan.
    I grew up on some of HG Wells’ short stories. They gave me insight into the varied imagination of a great mind. Often a novel follows only one trail of ideas and imagination. Also being dyslexic I am a slow reader, so I often don’t have the stamina to devour whole novels, so a short story can be a sustaining snack between meals. Sometimes I want a single rather than a symphony. My own foray into short stories use the vehicle of parable. In this mode it would crash the natural boundaries of the medium to make them anything than short stories. There is something very pleasing about a small crafted piece that speaks on multiple levels. That’s what I have aimed for in The Animal Parables.

Leave a Reply