Reading Short Stories: Pros and Cons

It seems short stories are a polarizing genre of literature. Readers and writers typically have strong opinions about them. I’ve read a lot of short stories in my day and, after considering the topic, I have come up with what I think are some of their pros and cons.

One pro is the fact you can finish them quickly, often in one session. Some people don’t have the time to follow a novel. Perhaps they’re very busy and don’t want to become emotionally wrapped-up in a story’s characters over an extended period of time. Perhaps they don’t have the time to read regularly and don’t want to risk forgetting what has happened halfway through a novel.

Another pro is that new story lines and new characters keep things fresh. Instead of reading about the same plot and the same characters for the amount of time it takes to read a novel, you get more diversity reading a series of short stories.

Another pro is that reading short fiction by a new author introduces you to their style and tone. This allows you to figure out whether you’d be interested in reading something longer by them.

The last pro I came up with is that short stories often give surprise endings. And sometimes that’s exactly what I’m in the mood for — a thrill, not a long drawn-out character study.

One con, especially if you’re reading a collection of short stories by different authors, is that it’s often a crap shoot. Some you’ll love, others you’ll dislike.

Another con is there’s really not time to build the kind of suspense you’d see in a novel. Some aren’t fleshed out well and deal with topics and situations better suited to a novel.

What do you think about short stories? Do you enjoy them? Did I do a good job outlining the pros and cons, or do you have something to add?

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