Learning to Love Short Stories

Once again I’ve been lucky to snag a guest post from a wonderful, up-and-coming writer. Read on and discover how author Amaleen Ison learned to love the short story.


Not every story is a novel.  Some ideas are just not long enough to sustain fifty-thousand plus words. But are short stories or novellas any less interesting or enjoyable because of their length?

Before I started writing I shunned short stories, considering them unworthy of my time or appreciation. They couldn’t be any good because they were…short. Daft, huh? My aversion began in school. Teachers forced me to read and evaluate short stories I had no interest in. I tarred all shorts with the same brush: boring and educational. It never occurred to me they could be read for pleasure. But I’ve discovered from speaking to family and friends that many people feel the same way.

Having read and written numerous short stories and novellas, I’m here to tell you that short tales can be exciting, filled with enchanting characters that tug at your heartstrings and despicable ones that make your insides shrivel. Mrs. Cruickshank, the antagonist from my novelette, The Trouble with Nightingale, is one of my favourite creations. She’s totally disgusting, and yet it’s her awfulness that entices the reader into the narrative.

Excerpt from The Trouble with Nightingale:

“The sixty-something skank with a too-tight pencil skirt, crooked beehive and five-inch stilettos sucked hard on a Marlboro. Smoke hung about her head like a grotty aura. Scarlet lipstick leaked into the creases around her lips, and canary-yellow eye shadow meandered past her squiggly-pencilled brows, giving the impression she’d applied it all without the use of a mirror.”

Designed to read in one sitting, short stories, novelettes, and novellas usually begin close to the tales conclusion and speed towards the final, and hopefully unexpected, revelation. They’re a whirlwind ride of conflict and unexpected consequences that ramp up emotional energy. With a limited number of words at the author’s disposal, the writing tends to be more concise than in a novel. Every word carefully selected, every sentence either developing character or driving the story towards its conclusion. Even descriptions must pay triple duty, setting scene, creating atmosphere, and foreshadowing plot.

Excerpt from The Trouble with Nightingale:

 “Millie prodded the lift’s grimy call button and glanced over her shoulder. Shadows thick with movement skulked beneath the concrete stairwell, darting away from each flicker of the orange security light above her head.

She leaned an ear toward the graffiti-scratched doors and listened for the rattle-clunk of the descending elevator. Like the rest of Nightingale Estate after dark, the mechanism remained eerily quiet.”

So when you’re next perusing the pages of an on-line book store, why not purchase a short story, novelette, or novella? They contain the same elements as a novel but in a bite size package, bursting with concentrated conflict to set your heart rate galloping. Like me, you might be surprised at the incredible characters and adventures you discover.

The Trouble with Nightingale

When seventeen year old Millie Scrubbings moves to new digs on East London’s Nightingale Estate, she believes she’s finally closed the door on a childhood dictated by strangers. But overnight, her peaceful high-rise turns bonkers, and a series of grisly murders leaves Millie frightened and more helpless than ever. Millie must accept her lead role in rescuing Nightingale from its descent into anarchy, or risk all Hell breaking loose.

$1.99 e-book available at Musa Publishing  and Amazon.

To follow Amaleen Ison, visit her blog www.amaleenison.com, Twitter @AmaleenIson, or visit her on Facebook.

9 thoughts on “Learning to Love Short Stories

  1. jesterqueen1 January 23, 2012 / 6:58 pm

    I love the idea of a sixty-something skank! It’s a contrast from the expected that catches my attention.


  2. childofyden January 23, 2012 / 9:32 pm

    Nicely done, Amaleen! You clearly know your craft. I’m looking forward to reading The Trouble with Nightingale.


    • Amaleen Ison January 24, 2012 / 1:58 pm

      Thank you for your comment, Suzanne 🙂 So chuffed you stopped by.


  3. Amaleen Ison January 24, 2012 / 2:59 am

    Thank you, Jesterqueen1. Mrs. Cruickshank is a surprising character in many ways. Thank you for reading my post 🙂


  4. Amaleen Ison January 24, 2012 / 3:01 am

    Erin, Thank you so much for hosting my guest post. It’s such a treat to feature on Word Crushes.
    Amaleen xx


  5. Derek January 24, 2012 / 3:16 am

    I think a novella or short story (or even a novelette!) is like a miniature garden – containing the same elements as its larger cousin, but with a greater attention to detail. Without the benefit of a slow-burning narrative, the author needs to keep everything well-defined and keep everything in a sharp focus. Great to see East London in your book, Amaleen (I’m biased, of course!) and to get a rich sense of place and presence.


    • Amaleen Ison January 24, 2012 / 2:01 pm

      Derek, you explain it beautifully! Such a way with words.
      I just love London. It features as the setting for many of my stories.


  6. dcvdickens January 25, 2012 / 11:32 am

    I love this post! It’s great to have short stories be remembered as a wonderful alternative to long-form. Some of my most profound reading experiences have been short stories. A good one will stay with you forever.


    • Amaleen Ison January 25, 2012 / 3:20 pm

      You’re absolutely right! Short stories are often overlooked in favour of their longer, meatier cousin Novel. But it doesn’t mean they don’t pack a punch. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post 🙂


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