Finding Form in Short Fiction

While reading RSS feeds this morning I came across an article on the Guardian book blog about a small publisher in Cambridge called Salt. One of the titles mentioned, ‘Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story‘, caught my attention because I’m interested in the short story as both a reader and a writer. I do like the novel form, but I adore and appreciate a good short story more than a good novel. It is maybe the hacker instinct working itself out of my mind, as a short story can be looked at as a total object which I can examine the way it works more easily than a novel. This helps me get better a writing, and being able to take apart a short story in this way gives me extra level of enjoyment from an individual story.

I was always the kid that took his toys apart and played with Lego.

Being absolutely broke I can’t hop onto Amazon and buy a copy of the book, but I can look on the website and read the free preview. In the PDF they provide the first essay from the collection. This essay by Graham Mort is called ‘Finding Form in Short Fiction’ and is well worth investigating fully. I just want to highlight one paragraph and bring that to your attention. It involves comics and it involves the short story, and it is a thought that has never occurred to me.

The first short fiction I ever read (by which I mean the short story here rather than the novella) was in the comics and comic books I subscribed to as a child and borrowed from friends. One lad, in particular, had a constant supply of Marvel comics through an older brother. I’m sure that one of the enduring influences of those comics was the use of frames that captured a visual image and moved the action forward in a sequence that resembled a ciné film with intervening frames missing. I realise now that frames equate to paragraphs in a story or stanzas in a poem — to move between them is to move across the white space of the page, which is often a period of implied time. The articulation of those comic strips was something to do with the motion of time within narrative, and with the way in which readers imagine absences.

I must find some time to meditate on this idea.

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