Though my favorite things to read are science fiction novels, I’m also a sucker for a great short story. As a creative writing minor in college, I was able to read many, many short stories that have stuck with me to this day. If you’re a short story writer, or even a novelist, these five short stories will make you see writing in a different way! If these stories are new to you, great! If they’re not, they’re worth the re-read. I promise.
Oh, and they’re all by amazingly talented women who you should add to your TBR right now.
A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri
Lahiri is the queen of short stories. This one follows a married couple, Shoba and Shukumar, through a few days of their lives. When their power is turned out nightly for about a week, Shoba and Shukumar realize what they’ve been missing, and just how far they’ve drifted apart. This story taught me a lot about perspective, and how writing is filtered through a character’s eyes even when writing in third person. Check this one out in Lahiri’s collection Interpreter of Maladies.
Eleven by Sandra Cisneros
This is the first story I ever remember loving. I fell in love with Cisneros’s analysis of the way that age can define who we are. This story follows a young girl through a misunderstanding in the classroom. Though to the outside observer, this event is unremarkable, we are put into Rachel’s head as everything unfolds. This story taught me a lot about narration and the way in which words can fit together so beautifully.
Girl by Jamaica Kincaid
This is the story that taught me that not all stories have to look the same. Girl is a stream-of-consciousness story told from the perspective of a young girl. I can’t really describe it other than to say it is well worth the read. Kincaid is a master of style, and this story breaks all the rules in all the right ways. You can read this one in Kincaid’s collection At the Bottom of the River.
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
This story is a whole family saga in short-story form. Throw a family in a car for a road trip, add some resentment and bribery, and you have O’Connor’s classic. This story taught me that character development can happen in a myriad of ways, and that the most skilled writers can write a brilliant character arc in just a few pages. Check out the collection A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories.
Tributaries by Ramona Ausubel
Oh. My. God, you guys. This story is so weird. It’s SO SO SO weird. But it’s stuck with me since I read it in college. This story takes place in a world where you can only grow arms if you fall in love. But then, as you fall in love more and more, you grow more and more arms. Ausubel’s voice is brilliantly satirical. Her story inspired me to try my hand at writing a short story with an ensemble cast. This story is equal parts absurd and contemporary and you won’t soon forget it.
What short stories will you always remember?