Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

The Short Story and Me

Velma Pollard

People usually ask me why I write. Now someone asks why I write the short story. The answer to the first is easy and is almost always the same no matter which writer you ask. We write because we must. We are driven. In my case the idea hangs like an albatross until I write it in one form or another. The question about form is more formidable, though. I had not thought about it till now. It could have something to do with the size of the ideas that come to me. Perhaps small ideas come to me. So I have written a short novel, a novella, and several short stories. I never seem to want to write about a world war, a political movement, or even the saga of a particular family over so many years. These are important in my writing only inasmuch as they affect the individual. I write about characters caught up in specific circumstances.

By the time I get to writing a story, the situation it explores with the characters caught up in it have been with me for a long time. The point at which I write is simply the point at which I discover a context in which the idea can be played out and find the space/time to sit and write. Let me give two examples.

I could not have been more than seven years old when a young man beheaded my great-aunt-in-law because she did not want him to court her daughter. All through the years I felt that this was a head lost in a poor cause. Fifty years later I could write the story “Carlton” around that tragedy. I had not known the young man. Twenty miles separated his village and mine at a time when that was a great distance. If I had tried to put that event into a novel it might have become an insignificant part of the plot. It could be a beginning or perhaps an end. The short story allowed it to be central. The

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