Monday, March 21, 2011

The Stories of Others


When I started writing I started collecting short stories that were not only good, but used a particular technique to advantage.  When I’m writing a story and want to slow the action down or create vivid descriptions of characters or places, I refer back to these stories; reread them, to see how the authors accomplished their effect.  Below is a partial list of the stories I’ve used.  I’m not expecting everyone will see the same things I do, but thought the list may be useful.


Here goes:





Almond, Steve


Perfect flash, punch end

Almond, Steve

The Breakup Vows

Poignant writing after rattling around

Antrium, Donald

Another Manhattan

Slow deterioration of a normal man into a mental institution

Benedict, Pinckney


Language & weirdness

Bierce, Ambrose

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge

Dream sequence

Black, Robin

John Parker

Two stories merge to one conclusion

Bloch, Robert

The Real Bad Friend

Two sides of the same person, portrayed as different characters

Butler, Robert Olen

Moving Day

Imagery, observation, detail, pattern

Calvino, Italo


Man given a gun when he joins the army, uses it to kill personal enemy

Calvino, Italo

World Memory

Second person address

Calvino, Italo

The Burning of the Abominable House

Spy v Spy v Spy, point/counterpoint

Calvino, Italo

The Queen's Necklace

Unfinished multi layered story

Cannon, Jo

Rictus (Insignificant Gestures)

Difficulties of dog parallel to person

Cannon, Jo

The Crow Down the Chimney

Image of crow becomes more and more important, meaningful repetition

Cannon, Jo

Mercy is Sick Today

Short tale of voyage from village to city and back

Coover, Robert

Going for a Beer

Temporal shifts

Dermont, Amber

Assembling the Troops

Jump cuts, with good opening and closing lines that are character descriptive

Doctorow, E.L.

Edgemont Drive

 Abstract dialogue

Doctorow, E.L.


Scene transitions

Doerr, Anthony

The Deep

interlocking vignettes

Foer, Jonathan Safran

Here We Aren't, So Quickly

relationship  I was, you were

Fong, Marko

Ocean in a Box

Perfect distance of POV from a very personal event

Garriga, Michael

On Watching her Husband Duel

3 POVs, same event

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

The Yellow Wallpaper

Creepy, spooky

Gordon, Mary

The Deacon

Longish dialogues that keep action going, good interiority

Guista, Michael

The Good Guy

POV 2nd person subbing for 1st

Hawthorne, Nathaniel

Rappaccini's Daughter

Old fashioned tale with fantastical ending

Johnson, Adam

Teen Sniper

Magical realism in Palo Alto

Joyce, James

The Dead

Spatial positioning of the characters

Kennedy, Cate

Black Ice

Clever revenge by a child

Klimasewiski, Marshall

The Third House

Time shifts are good and interesting

Lasden, James

An Anxious Man 

Angst about the stock market

Lasden, James

The Natural Order

Interplay between two men leading to the adultery of one of them, and his regret

Lasden, James


Obsession with rightness turns on the character's son

Lasden, James

Oh Death

Portrayal of a small town handyman

Lasden, James

The Old Man

The way a minor character is treated creates and insight into the character of the bride and her mother

Lasden, James


twist at the end

Lee, Andrea


3 men in Italy, description, slowing of drama

Markus, Peter

What the River Told Us to Do

Children, short, maudlin

Marrone, Frank

The Leaper

Funeral setting, woman leaps into grave

McEwan, Ian

The Use of Poetry

People description, use of time

Millhouser, Steven

The Disappearance of Elaine Coleman

Slow gradual awakening of a non-reality

Millhouser, Steven

Getting Closer

Very tight focus and description of things and people

Myles, Lynda

The Blue Dress

Clipped style dialogue

Obreht, Tea

The Tiger's Wife

Fantasy, interlocking stories

Obreht, Tea

The Space Elephant

Magical realism

O'Connor, Frank

Guests of the Nation

Summarizing last line

Orringer, Julie

The Isabel Fish

Flash backs

Orringer, Julie

Notes to my Sixth Grade Self

Second person as first

Paley, Grace


Five individual linked images

Pamuk, Orhan

Distant Relations

Well told tale, ending moves from particular to universal

Pancake, B D'J


Staccato style

Plump, Wendy

A Roomful of Yearning and Regret

Aftermath of an affair

Prose, Francine


Speed, linkages between paragraphs

Proulx, Annie

Them Old Cowboy songs

Slowing of time, interiority

Richter, Stacey

Christ, Their Lord

Jump cuts

Rothenberg, Pir


Gradual unwinding of the story using two strands

Styron, William

Rat Beach

War story, impact on ordinary soldier

Swofford, Anthony

Will they Kill You in Iraq?

Jump cuts, great transitions

Tellez, Hernando

Just Lather, That's All


Wallace, David Foster

Incarnations of Burned Children

Wholly frightening

Weston, Lesley

I Believe

Conditional tense

Wolff, Tobias

Hunters in the Snow

Horror slowly inexorably dawns

Wolff, Tobias

Bullet in the Brain

Slowing time



Townsend Walker


Roy Campanella said...

Excellent entry. Thank you.

One of my mentors, Paul Cody (interviewed here at OS) handed out such a list, though not exhaustive, it served a fundamental springboard towards reading quality work, like a primer for young readers. What was beneficial to me was that it was his, list, work from where he got his inspiration. At that point I was hungry for leads on "good" writing.

Insightful. Still have it and use it.



Assistant Managing Editor
Our Stories: A Unique Literary Journal

josh (@) o u r s t o r i e s (.) us

Chancelucky said...

this is a great list. I know some of thsse, but not all of them. I'll look forward to checking them out. It's nice to know what you admired about them.