by Travis Richardson *
I love short stories. I love to both write and read them. Since 2012 I’ve had over 40 short stories published. I’ve been asked before why I like it and I’ve had answers, but the best one I had came at Left Coast Crime in Vancouver in an Author Speed Dating event.
Let me explain what Author Speed Dating is first. In two hours, two authors pitch their works to approximately 144 readers at 18 tables seating 8 people. Each author has 2 minutes to pitch their book/project and then the next author pitches their book for 2 minutes. I partnered with Ann Parker, author of the Silver Rush series. We had recently had stories published in the anthology Low Down Dirty Vote.
We decided ahead of time to try to get our pitches down to a minute so that we could have time for questions. I pitched my short story collection Bloodshot and Bruised. The pitch went something like this: I have a collection of crime stories that take place in the south and the western areas of the United States. The title represents the political and geographic divide of the country as Bloodshot is for the red states and Bruised is the blue. The stories include Anthony, Macavity, and Derringer finalists.
After that point I ceded my time to Ann who spoke about her protagonist Inez Stanner traveling from Leadville to San Francisco in the 19th century and then a quick pitch for her friend Priscilla Royal who couldn’t make it.
With a minute and a few seconds left we asked the audience if they had any questions. They often did and we had seconds to respond before moving on to the next table. So when I was asked, why do you write short stories instead of novels, I didn’t have time to come up with a long-winded answer. What came to my mind was one word. Perfection.
As a reader I love short stories because the great ones are intense emotional journeys that keeps focus on the characters or plot all the way through to the end. They often have an impact that resonates as strong if not stronger than a 300-page novel. In great short stories, the author took extra effort to make sure every word counted. Eliminating everything and every word that is not necessary. When I write a short story, I can edit it several times over, making sure the pacing is pitch perfect. That the character reaches an emotional arch, that the plot has a twist or an intense resolution that will resonate.
This is something I can’t seem to do with a novel (yet). Time is an element that we don’t have much of and between a full time job and a four year old, I have even less. With a short story I can read every word in a single sitting, making sure the flow moves right and the tone shifts or stays consistent. In short, you can make sure the story is as close to perfection as it can possibly get and the more words you add the less likely that will be.
Travis Richardson is originally from Oklahoma and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter. He has been a finalist and nominee for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. He has two novellas and his short story collection, BLOODSHOT AND BRUISED, came out in late 2018. He reviewed Anton Chekhov short stories in the public domain at www.chekhovshorts.com. Find more at www.tsrichardson.com