Writers on Writing: The Art of the Short Story

By Maurice A. Lee | Go to book overview

Wholeness and the Short Story

Billie Travalini

What is most impressive about the modern short story is its sense of Wholeness. Recently I have read dozens of short stories in contemporary magazines and collections that are less concerned with convention and mechanics and more concerned with telling a story and getting it right. The result is stories that flow easily and don't sound contrived. Gone is the formula story where plot is everything and each word, each sentence, each paragraph has a distinct purpose and leads to a singular conclusion. Gone also is the formula of the unresolved impasse where plot is secondary and each word, each sentence, each paragraph has multiple meanings and leads to no conclusion and no resolution. What has taken their place is a sensible approach to storytelling where both subsurface thinking and surface action work together, without losing one or the other, to create a sense of Wholeness. Where does Wholeness come from in the short story? Wholeness comes from causality of subsurface thinking and surface action or vice versa. What becomes important is not whether a story focuses more on the mental process or physical but if such focusing works towards Wholeness. A tree is a tree and is familiar and useful in its own form regardless of whether it is an oak or weeping willow or magnolia. So, if a short story is to be successful, readers must recognize in the working a familiar and useful sense of Wholeness.

To make sense of all this I will talk about my own writing. Most of my stories come from somewhere deep inside of me that I may or may not be aware of. But they are there just the same, incidents from my past that are stored in long-term memory like high-school yearbooks that gather dust on a shelf and

-51-

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