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The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work
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The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  121 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
This big, beautiful anthology of short fiction is for readers, writers, and anyone curious about the mysterious processes of literary minds. All contributors have been recent faculty members of the prestigious Warren Wilson Low Residency Program, including such literary favorites as Margot Livesey, Charles Baxter, Robert Boswell, Jim Shepard, Antonya Nelson, David Shields, ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published January 17th 2004 by W. W. Norton Company (first published January 2004)
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Paul Bryant
Aug 09, 2008 rated it liked it
This is too good for me to have invented it, but I don't know where it comes from (anyone?)

A short story is a novel on its way to becoming a poem

Well, maybe. Reading short stories is not everyone's favourite form of entertainment. You have to do many things, and you might not be bothered to do them, because you only have 30 pages to do 'em in. Whereas if you were in the middle of a 400 page novel, you would do 'em. You know, like figure this, deduce that, love this, hate that, sneer, bark.

Jen Julian
Dec 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: anthologies
I used this anthology as a required text in an intermediate workshop. Wanted a collection that offered short fiction paired with commentary about craft (in this case from the authors themselves). The commentary provided for some interesting discussions, but overall many of these are middling stories by excellent authors who have produced better fiction elsewhere. Some stories worked and were compelling. Quite a few, however, seemed to fall apart under the weight of their authors' objectives.
Chanda Prescod-weinstein
This book was a mixed bag, but a great idea. There’s one story by Steve Schwartz that I’m going to study. There are a lot of throw away stories, even though sometimes the behind the story essays about them contain interesting nuggets of insight about how stories get made. The biggest problem is the whiteness of the book. The editors clearly have a preference for white people writing white working class and white collar stories, as if no one else in the world exists. After a while, the book felt ...more
Beverly McCall
Oct 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Found this book quite fascinating as we get a chance to discover each of the 26 writer's process and thinking when developing the selected stories. I realize from their sharing that I still have a way to go in my own growth. The bottom line is that each writer stood true to their creative process if it if it defies writing conventions learned in creative writing classes.
Jill Jepson
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
For any writer or aspiring writer of short fiction, this book is a gem. Not only does it present 26 beautifully crafted stories for your reading pleasure--which would be enough to make this book worth your time--but it then gives us a glimpse of how each story was constructed.

What considerations went into the structure of the story? How did the author develop the characters? Why was this particular point of view chosen? How did the setting come into play in the writing of the story? Things most
Thomas McBryde
Dec 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fantastic anthology of amazing writing from exceptional authors. This book is a must read for any literary major or anyone with hopes of becoming a writer themselves one day. What makes these stories great is the discussion after the story with the author. The authors go into great detail about their inspirations, writing style, and the evolution of the stories. Boasting a wide array of authors and each story having its own unique voice The Story Behind the Story is as close as a reader can ge ...more
Karen Douglass
Nov 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
As a reader, I admire the selections, especially Charles Baxter's "The Old Fascist in Retirement," based on the late days of Ezra Pound. In fact, I liked that story so much that I have ordered Baxter's collection, A RELATIVE STRANGER, because I want unlimited access to this story. As a writer, I value the commentary from the authors that follows each story. An excellent book with which I spend many good hours.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
When I came across this at the AWP W.W. Norton booth I expressed delight and wondered why I'd never seen this book before. The young twit working the booth sniffed "It's been around forever." Well, excuse me. The idea of this book is marvelous--though the stories are dated and a little soft, IMHO. Also, several glaring typos. BUT... if you teach or love short stories, this book is indispensable.
Sep 20, 2011 rated it liked it
I wasn't thrilled with this particular book. I felt like some of the stories were written, maybe even still in draft format at this point, solely for the book. They didn't strike me as stories that would succeed generally, with the exception of A Walk in Winter, the last story. I think there are probably better instructive books on short story writing. Better yet, just go buy books of short fiction by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc.
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Anybody who wants to write short stories should get this book. One of my fascinations is to hear how other writers go about the process of creating a short story, and this book gives you glimpses into several authors' creative minds. Twenty-six short stories by unique writers, followed by an essay on the birth of each story by its author: priceless.
Feb 25, 2009 rated it liked it

Some of these stories were really great (Christopher McIlroy's, Jim Shepard, Robert Boswell), some were solid, and some left me a bit cold. But I liked all the essays that followed the stories, and I have high hopes for using this as a course text for the upcoming beginning short story writing class I'm teaching. We will see....
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Aspiring Writers
Not every story in this book is good. That's part of what makes it so excellent. This is a great book for an aspiring writer. The mix of good and bad stories is great for learning what does and doesn't work in writing.
Mostly good stories, a couple drag, a couple feel unresolved, one is just really gross. All interesting. One has a better behind the story than actual story. The concept of the story behind the story is interesting. It makes you want a behind the story for everything.
Apr 16, 2011 is currently reading it
Well, I bought it because it sounded interesting and "City Codes" closed the deal when it looked like it was going to actually discuss the building code--which it didn't.

We'll see if the rest of the book is interesting.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
More hits than misses (by a lot). Each short story is followed by a page or three on which the author of the preceding short story talks about its inspiration or meaning. As someone who loves writing, I found the essays as interesting as the stories in most cases.
Jul 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Offers some insight into individual writing processes that may/ may not aide aspiring writers. But there are truly great stories in this anthology and even greater stories behind them.
Mar 05, 2008 rated it liked it
A solid collection. A few that were mind-blowing, more that were okay.
Veronica Watts
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Oct 28, 2007
Carmen Cocar
rated it it was amazing
May 06, 2014
Rosemarie Ison-Edgington
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Jun 10, 2015
Amanda Jackson
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Megan Jones
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Nov 06, 2013
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Allison Long
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Apr 04, 2013
Allison Ohlinger
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Nov 17, 2014
Wes Young
rated it it was ok
Jan 17, 2009
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Aug 05, 2012
Lisa Lewis
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May 20, 2015
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