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Do readers of historical fiction read short stories

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marklord
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Do readers of historical fiction read short stories

Post by marklord » Mon July 18th, 2011, 4:44 pm

And if not why not? And more generally a question for writers as well - do you write short stories and if so what's the purpose behind that - is it easier/quicker to produce so a good way to practice your writing skills, or are there some stories that just suit the short story length?
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Mythica
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Post by Mythica » Mon July 18th, 2011, 7:40 pm

Personally, I do not read short stories. They just don't hold my interest - there's not enough time for a real plot or character development. Most of my favorite historical novels are at least 600 pages.

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Matt Phillips
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Post by Matt Phillips » Mon July 18th, 2011, 7:48 pm

Good questions. I'm open to reading any compelling historical fiction regardless of form. I've enjoyed many of the stories published in Solander, The Copperfield Review, and Alt Hist.

But it seems harder to find HF short stories than full-length novels. There aren't a lot of journals that focus on HF besides the ones I mentioned. Perhaps short stories in general, including those in the HF genre, will become more easily accessible with the rise of e-readers.

Also, one of the biggest reasons readers love this genre is the opportunity to immerse oneself in another time and place. After reading a good historical novel, the reader should feel as if he or she has just returned from an engrossing journey into the past. It's possible to create that effect in a short story, but usually far more difficult, I'd imagine. The limitations on length might inhibit the reader's ability to dive deep into the story world (or the writer's ability to create that world and that experience for the reader).

As a writer, I find it's hard to come up with short-story-sized ideas, those that contain a beginning, middle and end and complete character arcs that I can cover and develop fully in 3,000, 5,000 or 10,000 words. Also, the shorter length does not exempt the writer from the research requirements of historical accuracy. Even stories that don't deal with specific famous people or events still need to create an authentic historical atmosphere, which itself can require a great deal of research even for short pieces. So a lot of writers might feel like they might as well write a novel if they're going to have to do a lot of research anyway!

Having said that, I am actually working on a HF short story now, and it's been a refreshing way to give my brain a change of pace from my novel manuscript.

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Post by Divia » Mon July 18th, 2011, 9:14 pm

I'll read classic short stories, but I wont read the newer stuff. Why, I dunno maybe I am more compelled to read the classics.

As a writer I agree with Matt. I find it very difficult to be able to write with so few words. I have tried on numerous occasions to write short stories and I think they have all been epic failures.
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Post by Misfit » Mon July 18th, 2011, 9:41 pm

I'm not terribly fond of short stories in general, even novellas are too short for me. Like Mythica I like to see more plot and character development.
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Alisha Marie Klapheke
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Post by Alisha Marie Klapheke » Mon July 18th, 2011, 9:43 pm

Ditto on what the others have said. Just when I fall for the character and setting, the short story is over. I do, however, write them often for enjoyment and practice.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Tue July 19th, 2011, 6:03 am

The New Yorker ran a historical short story a while back that I thought was great fun, "The Limner," by Julian Barnes, about a portrait painter and his subject: http://www.newyorker.com/fiction/featur ... ion_barnes

Short stories are quicker to write than novels, obviously because they're shorter. But I think it's harder to find subject matter that works for the short story form. They have to be little gems that reflect a whole world of story in an incredibly compact space.
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Post by Madeleine » Tue July 19th, 2011, 8:47 am

I very rarely read short stories, unless they're by a favourite author, although I will occasionally read a collection of ghost stories, which I think lend themselves exceptionally well to short story format.
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Post by fljustice » Tue July 19th, 2011, 9:23 pm

As a reader, I like short stories for "commuting" I can finish something before I have to get off the subway. I tend to read short stories by authors that I have already sampled and know they have the short form down (Allende and Atwood are favorites, but have also read anthologies "Best of...")

As a writer, I have the same problem as Matt. It's a tough format to get the depth of character development and historical research that I love in my novels. I'm currently writing a series of "linked" stories. They may stand on their own, but will probably evolve into a family saga. :eek:
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Post by marklord » Thu August 4th, 2011, 5:26 am

Thank you all for your feedback. From a writer's point of view short stories are often quicker to write and therefore good for practicing your craft, but as several of you have mentioned the investment required for an historical short story is often quite high.

What I tend to do is to write a few spin-off short stories based around characters in my novel - often as a way of exploring their characters further or fleshing out events in their past. Another way of doing it is to have a sequence of short stories based around a set of characters - the famous Fantasy short stories of Conan and Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories are good examples of this. If you do this there is a value to investing time and effort into developing setting and character. But these stories were written when there really was a much bigger market for short stories, and I guess now readers are more interested in the immersion element of a novel-length work.
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Writer of Historical Fantasy, visit my site for more details.

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Hell has its Demons (Historical Fantasy)
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