In this digital age one thing is for sure: people want information, like now.
This goes not only for the social media we read, the news articles and blog posts. It has also spilled over into our fiction reading habits. Short story collections are on the rise.
But why exactly should you switch from your beloved full-length novel to a short story every once in a while? Here are 7 good reasons!
7 Reasons to read short stories
1. First lines
If you are a writer, what better way to get inspiration for the first line of your story than to check out what other authors in your genre are going for? As a useful exercise, write down each first line from the short story collection you pick up. Which were your favourite? Which did you like the least? Do you know why you preferred one over the other? How might you start your own story?
2. Last lines
As above, but for the very last line of each story. Which ones ‘grab you’ and which don’t? Are the authors opting for cliff-hanger endings? Are they hinting at a future sequel? Which method do you like best and why? Perhaps these will give you ideas for your own stories!
3. Deconstruction exercises
If you are reading stories in an effort to understand the structure of a crime novel, it can be really useful to deconstruct a shorter story to see its inner workings. I will be writing a post on deconstruction exercises soon, but it loosely involves breaking down the story back to its planning stages so that you can better understand how things like the theme, setting, characters and plot reveal themselves over the course of the story.
For example, can you break down the short story into a classic three-act structure? If so, in the first third of the story we should see:
- the first murder
- introduction of all major characters
- the main character facing a challenge
- introduction of underlying themes (love, loss, politics etc.)
Check out my article A Guide to Crime Story Structure: What Goes at the Beginning, Middle and End? to learn more!
4. Quick to read
If you are a busy bee and don’t have much free time in the day, the short story collection is for you. It means you don’t have to dedicate huge periods of time to read, and can pick up and leave the book after each individual story if you buy a collection, without worrying that you will forget where you got to. The short story is ideal for the commuter – you can read one in the time it takes to bus, train or tram to work. They are also fab to take when travelling and on holidays because you get to read tons of different stories in a book the same size as your average novel.
5. Build your reading confidence
If you are a slow reader, or are trying to improve your vocabulary used in your own writing by reading other people’s work, the short story will be really handy for you, but it will also build your confidence. Not everyone finds reading easy, and the prospect of a normal story at on average 80,000 words can be pretty daunting. Build up this skill gradually with a short story collection, and feel good about yourself: you read 10 stories instead of just one!
6. Explore a new genre quickly
The beauty of buying a short story is that it introduces you to a genre you perhaps haven’t read before, and means you don’t have to commit to a whole novel if it isn’t for you. Which genre of book have you neglected? Perhaps you could search for a short story bestseller and discover something new!
7. Cheat your reading goals
Reading lots of short story collections is certainly helping me build up my Goodreads ‘to read’ list this year, which I have set at 40 books by the end of 2017. If you really wanted to cheat, you could include each individual story!
Where to find them?
On Amazon you can find collections by searching:
Books > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Short Stories
You can also search for terms such as ‘quick reads’, ‘short story collections’ or ‘anthologies’.
Some short story collections to get you started!
Dark Minds by Various Authors
A collection of 40 short stories surrounding the theme ‘dark minds’. Read my review here.
Dead Simple by Various Authors
I’ve just finished this and loved it! 8 stories featuring authors such as Mark Billingham and Clare Mackintosh.
Night Shift by Stephen King
I was recommended this and it is next in my ‘to read’ pile. 20 short stories by the master of thrillers.
Book Shots by James Patterson
Under his ‘thriller’ section there are nearly 40 short stories to James’s name – all under 150 pages and most just £1.99.
Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology #1 by Various Authors
The first collection of short stories by these London-based female authors. 15 thrillers including authors such as Sarah Hilary and Alex Marwood.
Match Up by Various Authors
Out June, you can pre-order this collection of 11 short stories all written by two collaborating authors each. Collabs include Peter James & Val McDermid and Kathy Reichs & Lee Child. I can’t wait for this!
Also check out this top ten list by Lit Reactor for more ideas!
And finally, a handy infographic to remind you of all the very good reasons to read crime fiction short stories!
Over to you
Have you got any crime fiction short story recommendations? Please tell me in the comments below!