Celebrating Stories Shorter Than a Hobbit

I am a little obsessed with short films.  Every time the Oscar-nominated short films come to DC, I drag my friends and husband to the theaters to see them. I don't care if it is animated or live, I will be in one of the seats, eagerly waiting for the directors to introduce their short films. 

I also am addicted to short stories. When I see a short story collection that includes one of my favorite authors, I dash to the nearest bookstore (or my Amazon cart). I love sitting down, getting immersed in a world, and completing the story by the time I stand up. 

This weekend, I got to enjoy both. I am currently writing a review for Imaginary Book Club on Hugo Award-winning short stories, so I binged on sci-fi short stories this weekend. And it was fabulous. I got to travel to ten different worlds in one coffee shop.

As if that weren't enough awesome, DC had a short film festival. I got to sit in a dark room and experience eight short films. It was like being in conversation with eight different people from around the world. I was in heaven.

The irony behind my obsession? I have a hard time writing short stories. Every time I try to write one, it turns into a novel. While I have (almost) given up on my dream of writing a short story, I think it is super important to study them.

Why?

Short stories have so much to teach in their brevity. Here are a few things you can learn from consuming short stories (whether in print or in film):

  • How to develop nuanced, complex characters through little details
  • How to focus on a single storyline 
  • How to deliver an emotional punch in a few pages.

Don't know where to begin? I have included some recommendations for short films and short stories. 

Recommended Short Stories

"A Good Man Is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor 

"Hills Like White Elephants" by Ernest Hemingway 

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates 

"Cat Pictures Please" by Naomi Kritzer (this year's Hugo winner) 

My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (young adult short story collection)

"Big Blonde" by Dorothy Parker

"The Dead" by James Joyce 

"Passion" by Alice Munro 

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi

Recommended Short Films

"Sing for Your Supper" (directed by Mu Sun)

"The Phone Call" (directed by Mat Kirby)

"West Bank Story" (directed by Ari Sandel) 

"Curfew" (directed by Shawn Christensen) 

"Paperman" (directed by John Khars)

"Feast" (directed by Patrick Osborne) 

"Bear Story" (directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas) 

What are your favorite short stories or films? Tell me in the comments below!