Honing in on Short Stories

In the beginning, I was a reader of course.  Alice Munro. William Trevor. Denis Johnson. Edward P. Jones. Amy Hempel. The humor of Lorrie Moore and George Saunders. The emotion of Lauren Groff. The irony of Tessa Hadley. Writers who can seem like the wisest people in the world. Literally.

How do they do that? This is the question that motivated me to study craft. This is the question that motivates me to write.

An excellent short story, a real gem, might have the lyricism of poetry combined with the compelling characters of a novel. But they have something else. Some call it the epiphany. The unexpected twist. The inevitable truth that captures an essence of life that is very often mind-blowing. The part at the end that takes your breath away. Wow indeed.

In writing Hikokimori, I started off with two characters who speak different languages. I played with the idea of how difficult it is to connect with another person, even in your own family, and how connection can be impossible for some people. There were at least sixteen versions of this story. After cutting, sanding, and polishing, the latest appears here in Litbreak. I am not a perfectionist, but I keep grinding away for the best possible version of what I’m writing. This can be difficult and frustrating, but it is really, for me, what writing is all about. My goal is to write and my goal is to write something worthwhile.