In the past, I was never sure about short stories. I understood (in theory) the beauty and style required, but I’m normally such a fast reader that -zip! - it was done just as I started to get into it. So I tried reading them slower and sometimes that worked. I could better appreciate the author’s choice of words and I started to understand that it’s often the evolution of the moment that is the important part, as opposed to being character or story driven. In other words, the journey rather than the ending.
What really got me into short stories though were collections created by some of my favourite authors. Particularly when I was younger, I was always put-off with the sudden changes between stories when they were contradictory in writing style and how I couldn’t guarantee that every story would be worthwhile. Whether it was because I appreciated the writing, character, setting or some combination, I just wanted an aspect to love in every story. Unfortunately the collections that seemed to fall into my hands in my early 20s didn’t have enough for me to latch onto. So I avoided them and figured I might get around to exploring short stories, one day, maybe…
But when Terry Pratchett passed away in 2015, all of his short stories were collected into one beautiful blue volume. A whole third of them are devoted to his Discworld characters - all of whom I love and adore. I loved seeing these characters in unusual situations or explaining things that are alluded to in the main series. Encouraged by this enjoyment, I sought out other collections that either were by a single author (Jojo Moyse) or around an idea that enthralled me (Reader, I married him, stories inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier).
As I read through some of these collections I found that if I liked a previous author’s work, I would generally like a story written by them. I still suffer from reading them too quickly, but if concentrate enough I can absorb their essence in a diverting manner, different to a full length novel. Which is the point, or at least becoming the point for me - absorbing an idea from each story. Something that for a brief shining moment shows you a concept, either new or abstracted in such a way that you can view the world in differently, even if it is only for 50 pages.