Let’s Talk with Nancy J. Cohen

Short Fiction by Nancy J. Cohen

I’ve never been a big fan of short fiction. I prefer to read a novel that I can sink my teeth into, as the proverbial saying goes. I like to get absorbed in the story and love the feeling when it’s so good that I don’t want it to end. I get entranced by the characters and their world and want to stay there for long hours of reading pleasure. In contrast, a short story is quick and often has a twist at the end. These may be good to read when you only have a brief amount of time and want something you can finish.

Then there is flash fiction or micro-fiction as they call the short, short stories. These are more akin to slices of life or vignettes with a focus on character. They don’t need a plot structure like a true short story. If you like reading essays, these might be for you. They’re clearly not for me.

I need characters whose lives will enthrall me and who sweep me into the path of adventure, danger, intrigue and romance. Short fiction doesn’t appeal to me this way, although I might study them on occasion as a learning experience to see how other authors do it. Nor do I feel I’m clever enough to come up with that surprise ending each time. It’s easier for me to plot a mystery novel and figure out the clues and red herrings and misdirection for the reader.

Do you read short fiction? If so, what need does it satisfy? Or do you prefer novel-length works? If you’re into a series, do you like short stories and novellas that add to the body of work, or would you rather the author stuck to the longer books?

Comments

  1. Obviously I wrote this piece before offering a short story of my own! I wrote an epilogue to Hair Brained and then felt it needed more. It turned into Hairball Hijinks, the first short story in my Bad Hair Day series now available for pre-order.

  2. tinawhittle says:

    As a reader, I love short stories (I collect anthologies of such, everything from horoscope mysteries to culinary mysteries to mysteries set in Cleveland). As a writer, I shied away from them (like Maggie said, writing short is hard!) but I have found that they suit me during certain times of my schedule. I enjoy writing little one-offs with my series characters just to keep them in my mind for when i get back to the next novel.

  3. I love a novel, and I also enjoy novellas. Seems like my “free” time diminishes each year and I’m scrambling to finish an entire book. I also have little bits of time here and there, waiting for an appointment, and for me, that’s the niche of short fiction. I’ve tried my hand at shorts a few times and succeeded in finishing several, but a lot of hair pulling was involved. For me, it’s harder to write short, so I much admire authors of short fiction.

    • Yes, I find it very hard to write short. I do like novellas since they are meatier, but only if I know the page count ahead of time. I don’t like to be surprised in that regard.

  4. I like both long and short. I like the short story anthologies, because I can finish a complete story in a sitting, but I also love spending time with characters. As an author, I find the shorter format much more difficult to write, although I’ve managed to do it a few times. Most of the time, I can’t finish the first draft of a novel in under 100,000 words.

    • That’s a long novel, more along the lines of my romances that are 100,000+. My mysteries run 75,000-80,000 words. I notice the prolific indie authors write books that are a lot shorter than ours.

  5. I’m with you, Nancy. I prefer a novel, and I don’t mind the huge, epic tomes that some authors write, as long as they can keep the story moving. I don’t mind the novellas or short stories for a “quick reading fix” when I have a short time frame, and I have enjoyed the shorts that give me further insight to some of my favorite characters, or which highlight a minor player with an interesting background, but I as a rule, I do shy away from the shorter pieces unless I’m invested in the main character to begin with.

    • I usually follow a series for the main character but an occasional side trip is okay. Too many, and I begin to lose interest. it’s like the Star Wars films. I enjoy the stand-alones (and I’m seeing the Solo movie on Sunday), but I really want to see what happens next to the epic characters.

  6. Linda Chudej says:

    Short stories always leave me with an incomplete feeling. I like both fiction and nonfiction books that are about three hundred pages long. I like cozy mysteries but will occasionally read a police procedural based on a true story.

    • My finished books run about 280 pages or 80,000 words. Some fantasy novels can run very long, but like Karla said, the story has to keep moving. The short story I just wrote is meant to act as a bridge between books. Otherwise readers would have been left hanging at the end of Hair Brained, because the next story picks up several months later. Normally that’s okay, but not in this case.