09 June 2008


I would call both stories I'm editing for the next issue perfect examples of "keyhole stories" . And it's worth noting both came in around 3000 words.

I steal the notion from Barth Anderson, author of PATRON SAINT OF PLAGUES and THE MAGICIAN AND THE FOOL. (He's also appeared in our pages.) He said in our interview:

...every sentence is like another incremental dilation of a camera lens, letting in a little more light, information, or field of vision of what we're looking at. To me that explained what short stories can do. They're like peeking through a keyhole ... more often than not, novels are the whole room. A novel rifles through the drawers and reads the diary under the bed, but a short story is just a tiny viewing through one small aperture, and that's all.

This sounds like world building, and to an extent it is, but it also refers neatly to plot, as well. We only get to see those pivotal events, short and dirty, that directly affect the outcome of the story. All else is ruthlessly thrown in the hamper (to keep the painful metaphor going).

As editors, we're learning that shorter is often better, not because we have short attention spans, but because those shorter works often show a mastery of the form, of storytelling. And really, how many pages will your reader kneel there, eye pressed to the keyhole, before he gets a crick in his neck?

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