Monday, May 8, 2017

Short Story Month 2017: Part 4: Short-Story Writers on Leaving Things OUt

Leaving Things Out

Anton Chekhov:  "In short stories it is better to say not enough than to say too much, because, because--I don't know why."

Rudyard Kipling:  "A tale from which pieces have been raked out is like a fire that has been poked. One does not know the operation has been performed, but everyone feels the effect."

Hemingway:  “If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them.”

William Boyd:  “Something occurs in the writing - and reading - of a short story that is on another level from the writing and reading of a novel. The basic issue, it seems to me, is one of compression versus expansion. The essence of almost every short story, by contrast, is one of distillation, of reduction. It's not a simple question of length, either. We are talking about a different category of prose fiction altogether.”

Peter Taylor:  “Compression is what I have set great store by as a short-story writerThe short-story writer is concerned with compression, with saying as much as he can in a short space, just as the poet is. So he has to choose the right dramatic moment for the presentation. If he can do that in writing a story, he can have as big a canvas as he would with a novel. That’s the genius of the short-story writer—finding precisely the right moment in the vital interplay between the characters.”

John Barth:  “We may safely generalize that short story writers, as a class, from Poe to Paley, incline to see how much they can leave out, and novelists as a class, from Petronius to Pynchon, how much they can leave in.”

William Trevor:  “I think the short story is the art of the glimpse.  If the novel is like an intricate Renaissance painting, the short story is an impressionist painting. It should be an explosion of truth. Its strength lies in what it leaves out just as much as what it puts in, if not more. It is concerned with the total exclusion of meaninglessness. Life, on the other hand, is meaningless most of the time.”

Julio Cortezar:  “The short story begins with the notion of limits…it cuts off a fragment of reality, giving it certain limits, but in such a way that this segment acts like an explosion which fully opens a much more ample reality.”

Anne Beattie:  “Any life will seem dramatic if you omit mention of most of it.”


Graham Riach said...

Thanks very much for all these wonderful quotes! I came across this one recently from Elif Batuman, in an article called Short Story & Novel: American Writing Today :

‘The short-story form can only accommodate a very specific content: basically, absence. Missing persons, missed opportunities, very brief encounters, occurring in the margins of “Life Itself”: when the content is minimalist, then it makes sense to follow the short-fiction dictates: condense, delete, omit.’

Charles May said...

Thanks for this, Graham. I had not seen it before. I like it; it makes much sense to me.