Short stories are the perfect reading solution for our time-poor era. With an average word count of 2000-7000 words, a short story encapsulates everything readers love about storytelling – compelling characters, conflict, setting, theme and plot – in a compact form that packs a wallop.
This means that, for writers, there’s nowhere to hide in a short story. And that makes a great short story an excellent learning resource for every writer.
One writer who really knows her way around a short story is award-winning author Angela Slatter. Angela’s short stories have appeared in Australian, UK and US ‘Best Of’ anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of New Horror, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, and The Year’s Best YA Speculative Fiction.
With 10 award-winning short story collections published, Angela has a brand new collection coming out in October, called The Wrong Girl and Other Warnings.
Who better, then, to ask for her favourite stories to not only showcase the art and craft of short-story writing but to inspire and motivate every writer?
Angela Slatter’s top 5 short stories to read right now
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
First published in 1948, this classic tale is as dark as it is tiny.
The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link
“Not that you should believe this story. Promise me you won’t believe a word.” This Hugo-Award-winning story plays with the border between real life and the unexpected.
The Rememberer by Amiee Bender
A short, pithy tale from American surrealist Amiee Bender that challenges the shape of stories.
The Husband Stitch by Carmen Maria Machado
“I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.” Peppered with urban myths, this taut, condensed story of a woman’s life explores truth and belief.
The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
From Argentine author and librarian Jorge Luis Borges, this story, written in 1941, describes the universe as a vast and virtually infinite library. All the books are exactly 410 pages long, and every one is different from all the rest. The story has been described as exposing the futility of humanity’s attempt to understand everything when there is so much to comprehend.
And two to save for later
While not officially published online for immediate gratification, these two stories are well worth seeking out.
A Family Supper by Kazuo Ishiguro
This 1982 short story is about a family sitting down to dinner together for the first time in many years – but, as with all great short stories, is also about a whole lot more.
A Natural History of Hell by Jeffrey Ford
While not for the faint-hearted, this award-winning 2016 collection of short stories ranges from horror to fantasy to science fiction and magical realism and varies widely in tone.
Allison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is currently editing her latest middle-grade novel The First Summer of Callie McGee. Find out more about her at allisontait.com.