Short Fiction Quotes

Quotes tagged as "short-fiction" Showing 1-30 of 39
Paolo Bacigalupi
“Short fiction seems more targeted - hand grenades of ideas, if you will. When they work, they hit, they explode, and you never forget them. Long fiction feels more like atmosphere: it's a lot smokier and less defined.”
Paolo Bacigalupi

Jonathan Carroll
“A short story is a sprint, a novel is a marathon. Sprinters have seconds to get from here to there and then they are finished. Marathoners have to carefully pace themselves so that they don't run out of energy (or in the case of the novelist-- ideas) because they have so far to run. To mix the metaphor, writing a short story is like having a short intense affair, whereas writing a novel is like a long rich marriage.”
Jonathan Carroll

Karen Fowler
“Coming home seemed to have started the healing process. No longer vivid and garish, the memories seemed to be covered in gossemer, fading behind a curtain of time and forgiveness.”
Karen Fowler, Memories For Sale

Anton Chekhov
“April was just beginning, and after the warm spring day it turned cooler, slightly frosty, and a breath of spring could be felt in the soft, cold air. The road from the convent to town was sandy, they had to go at a walking pace; and on both sides of the carriage, in the bright, still moonlight, pilgrims trudged over the sand. And everyone was silent, deep in thought, everything around was welcoming, young, so near— the trees, the sky, even the moon—and one wanted to think it would always be so.”
Anton Chekov, Short Stories

Irving Howe
“Let's press ahead a little further by sketching out a few variations among short shorts:

Mishima, Shalamov, Babel, W. C. Williams.) In these short shorts the time span is extremely brief, a few hours, maybe even a few minutes: Life is grasped in symbolic compression. One might say that these short shorts constitute epiphanies (climactic moments of high grace or realization) that have been tom out of their contexts. You have to supply the contexts yourself, since if the contexts were there, they'd no longer be short shorts.

LIFE ROLLED UP. (Examples: Tolstoy's 'Alyosha the Pot,' Verga's 'The Wolf,' D. H. Lawrence's 'A Sick Collier.') In these you get the illusion of sustained narrative, since they deal with lives over an extended period of time; but actually these lives are so compressed into typicality and paradigm, the result seems very much like a single incident. Verga's 'Wolf' cannot but repeat her passions, Tolstoy's Alyosha his passivity. Themes of obsession work especially well in this kind of short short.

SNAP-SHOT OR SINGLE FRAME. (Examples: Garda Marquez, Boll, Katherine Anne Porter.) In these we have no depicted event or incident, only an interior monologue or flow of memory. A voice speaks, as it were, into the air. A mind is revealed in cross-section - and the cut is rapid. One would guess that this is the hardest kind of short short to write: There are many pitfalls such as tiresome repetition, being locked into a single voice, etc.

LIKE A FABLE. (Examples: Kafka, Keller, von Kleist, Tolstoy's 'Three Hermits.') Through its very concision, this kind of short short moves past realism. We are prodded into the fabulous, the strange, the spooky. To write this kind of fable-like short short, the writer needs a supreme self-confidence: The net of illusion can be cast only once. When we read such fable-like miniatures, we are prompted to speculate about significance, teased into shadowy parallels or semi allegories. There are also, however, some fables so beautifully complete (for instance Kafka's 'First Sorrow') that we find ourselves entirely content with the portrayed surface and may even take a certain pleasure in refusing interpretation.

Irving Howe, Short Shorts

Kim Bongiorno
“Boney freckled knees pressed into bits of bark and stone, refusing to feel any more pain.
Her faded t-shirt hugged her protruding ribs as she held on, hunched in silence.
A lone tear followed the lumpy tracks down her cheek, jumped from her quivering jaw onto a thirsty browned leaf with a thunderous plop.
Then the screen door squeaked open and she took flight.
Crispy twigs snapped beneath her bare feet as she ran deeper and deeper into the woods behind the house. She heard him rumbling and calling her name, his voice fueling her tired muscles to go faster, to survive.
He knew her path by now. He was ready for the hunt.
The clanging unbuckled belt boomed in her ears as he gained on her.
The woods were thin this time of year, not much to hide behind. If she couldn’t outrun him, up she would go.
Young trees teased her in this direction, so she moved east towards the evergreens.
Hunger and hurt left her no choice, she had to stop running soon.
She grabbed the first tree with a branch low enough to reach, and up she went.
The pine trees were taller here, older, but the branches were too far apart for her to reach. She chose the wrong tree.
His footsteps pounded close by.
She stood as tall as her little legs could, her bloodied fingers reaching, stretching, to no avail. A cry of defeat slipped from her lips, a knowing laugh barked from his.
She would pay for this dearly. She didn’t know whether the price was more than she could bear. Her eyes closed, her next breath came out as Please, and an inky hand reached down from the lush needles above, wound its many fingers around hers, and pulled her up.
Another hand, then another, grabbing her arms, her legs, firmly but gently, pulling her up, up, up. The rush of green pine needles and black limbs blurred together, then a flash of cobalt blue fluttered by, heading down.
She looked beyond her dangling bare feet to see a flock of peculiar birds settle on the branches below her, their glossy feathers flickered at once and changed to the same greens and grays of the tree they perched upon, camouflaging her ascension.
Her father’s footsteps below came to a stomping end, and she knew he was listening for her. Tracking her, trapping her, like he did the other beasts of the forest.
He called her name once, twice. The third time’s tone not quite as friendly.
The familiar slide–click sound of him readying his gun made her flinch before he had his chance to shoot at the sky. A warning. He wasn’t done with her.
His feet crunched in circles around the tree, eventually heading back home.
Finally, she exhaled and looked up. Dozens of golden-eyed creatures surrounded her from above. Covered in indigo pelts, with long limbs tipped with mint-colored claws, they seemed to move as one, like a heartbeat. As if they shared a pulse, a train of thought, a common sense.
“Thank you,” she whispered, and the beasts moved in a wave to carefully place her on a thick branch.”
Kim Bongiorno, Part of My World: Short Stories

Judy Budnitz
“You have to stop this. I don't want to lose you too. If you have to make a revolution, Make a small revolution.”
Judy Budnitz, Nice Big American Baby

Irving Howe
“The usual short story cannot have a complex plot, but it often has a simple one resembling a chain with two or three links. The short short, however, doesn't as a rule have even that much - you don't speak of a chain when there's only one link. ...

Sometimes ... the short short appears to rest on nothing more than a fragile anecdote which the writer has managed to drape with a quantity of suggestion. A single incident, a mere anecdote - these form the spine of the short short.

Everything depends on intensity, one sweeping blow of perception. In the short short the writer gets no second chance. Either he strikes through at once or he's lost. And because it depends so heavily on this one sweeping blow, the short short often approaches the condition of a fable. When you read the two pieces by Tolstoy in this book, or I.L. Peretz's 'If Not Higher,' or Franz Kafka's 'The Hunter Gracchus,' you feel these writers are intent upon 'making a point' - but obliquely, not through mere statement. What they project is not the sort of impression of life we expect in most fiction, but something else: an impression of an idea of life. Or: a flicker in darkness, a slight cut of being. The shorter the piece of writing, the more abstract it may seem to us. In reading Paz's brilliant short short we feel we have brushed dangerously against the sheer arbitrariness of existence; in reading Peretz's, that we have been brought up against a moral reflection on the nature of goodness, though a reflection hard merely to state.

Could we say that the short short is to other kinds of fiction somewhat as the lyric is to other kinds of poetry? The lyric does not seek meaning through extension, it accepts the enigmas of confinement. It strives for a rapid unity of impression, an experience rendered in its wink of immediacy. And so too with the short short. ...

Writers who do short shorts need to be especially bold. They stake everything on a stroke of inventiveness. Sometimes they have to be prepared to speak out directly, not so much in order to state a theme as to provide a jarring or complicating commentary. The voice of the writer brushes, so to say, against his flash of invention. And then, almost before it begins, the fiction is brought to a stark conclusion - abrupt, bleeding, exhausting. This conclusion need not complete the action; it has only to break it off decisively.

Here are a few examples of the writer speaking out directly. Paz: 'The universe is a vast system of signs.' Kafka in 'First Sorrow': The trapeze artist's 'social life was somewhat limited.' Paula Fox: 'We are starving here in our village. At last, we are at the center.' Babel's cossack cries out, 'You guys in specs have about as much pity for chaps like us as a cat for a mouse.' Such sentences serve as devices of economy, oblique cues. Cryptic and enigmatic, they sometimes replace action, dialogue and commentary, for none of which, as it happens, the short short has much room.

There's often a brilliant overfocussing.

Irving Howe, Short Shorts

Holly Walrath
“Each day Marda gets closer. The sub circles coral reefs off the coasts, where mermaids are said to like the colors of the schools of fishes, and train them to swim around their necks like jewelry or live behind their ears, beneath their long hair. Sometimes mermaids like shallow places, but mostly they like the dark and the beautiful, uncharted, abandoned, soulless parts of the undiscovered world.”
Holly Walrath, Pulp Literature Issue 7 Summer 2015

“The vibrations he felt in his sleep had nothing to do with his soul easing out of his body as he dreamily thought; they came solely from the weight and motion of the freight train rolling north to deliver fuel, furniture and other items having no relevance to Elijah’s life or his dreaming. On the metal rail his arm itched like a nose with a feeling that something bad was about to happen. In another life the sound of the train would have been reminiscent of certain songs by Muddy Waters or even Bruce Springsteen but not in this one. In this life the sound stabbed viciously against the night exactly like a human being demonstrating flawless disrespect for the life of another human being.
--from short story ELIJAH’S SKIN”
Author-Poet Aberjhani, I Made My Boy Out of Poetry

Judy Budnitz
“Couldn't help it, he insisted. My dad would bell me to draw a flower and it would turn into a Venus flytrap chewing on a hand.”
Judy Budnitz, Nice Big American Baby

H.D. Timmons
“You know Dahmer was a cannibal. You think he was a zombie?”
Tom smirked. “I’m no expert, but not all cannibals are zombies.”
H.D. Timmons - Zombie City

“Short first pregnancies do not occasion criticism in our valley, for it is widely known that the good Lord often makes first pregnancies mercifully brief as His reward to the girl for having preserved her chastity until marriage. Subsequent pregnancies, however, usually run their full terms, which only makes sense, as the very fact that they are not first pregnancies means that the mother was not chaste at the moment of conception.”

Judy Budnitz
“What's your dad do? I said. Designs new and better wings for new and better sing nuts, he said proudly. It sounded like he was repeating something a sarcastic adult had said.”
Judy Budnitz, Nice Big American Baby

Judy Budnitz
“What about your mum? She got taken away. Mine too, I said. There was nothing special about that. It happened all the time.”
Judy Budnitz, Nice Big American Baby

“CONGRATULATIONS DL Havlin! Your entry, "There are No Lights in Naples", an unpublished short fiction - flash fiction genre category, is a finalist for the 2016 Royal Palm Literary Awards competition!”
Jeanelle Cooley

“It's sad to see the devil cry.”
Aubrey Brooks Esquire

Kolla Krishna Madhavi
“The lovely blue sky was dotted with lazy, fluffy white clouds, slowly meandering their way to another destination a little far away.”
Kolla Krishna Madhavi, Noel And The Basket Of Bagels

Zoë S. Roy
“The dictator’s black hand had
made China a birdcage wrapped in red flags."--From "Balloons”
Zoë S. Roy, Butterfly Tears

“We drove through a few more neighborhoods after that, searching for the lost truck, listening to a CD of old Khmer songs, the same CD that had been stuck in the stereo since the Honda had belonged to mom. I barely understood the lyrics, aside from a few phrases in the choruses, but I knew the melodies, the voices, the weird mix of mournful, psychedelic tones. When I tried articulating my feelings about home, my mind inevitably returned to these songs, the way the incomprehensible intertwined with what made me feel so comfortable. I’d lived with misunderstanding for so long, I’d stopped even viewing it as bad. It was just there, embedded in everything I loved.”
Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties

“But what if everyone assumes they're doomed to die, no survivors? What if the plane is breaking up, and the smoky sky leaks through the cracks, and there’s a piercing screech in the wind? There’s the promise of disintegration, of body parts scattered across hundreds of kilometres of wilderness, and teddy bears, and a debris field filmed from a helicopter, families weeping in nearby airports, framed on the front page, last names later chiseled into a marble memorial. That would be so much worse, that moment you realize no one’s going to make it, everyone’s going to die, because no survivors means the end of your world, ugliness all the way down, fear and its resulting cruelty, until the wings slice the treetops and the cabin bursts into flames. No survivors is the end of everything.”
Paul Carlucci, The High-Rise in Fort Fierce

“If they die here together, starved like prisoners, she hopes he’ll come with her to find her legs. She hopes he can swim. But even if he can’t, she’s sure he’ll learn once the water touches his toes. The knowledge will come to his body, like in a dream. She imagines the two of them swimming side by side in an endless sea, an epic of water below them, billion of colourful fish joining their adventure. There would be an island eventually. They would wade ashore and pick fruit from the trees.”
Paul Carlucci, A Plea for Constant Motion

“This thing right here is an edgy sex-type thing: all po-mo and throwback, at once passionate and insincere. It creeps around downtown, goes underground in the financial district, resurfaces on Queen West, becomes a full-blown geyser in bars like this. The Cramp are on, and everybody’s All Tore Up, probably snorting coke in the bathroom, shooting bourbon at the bar, and pretty soon it’ll be The Creature from the Black Leather Lagoon, red satin curtains in the window behind the stage, hubcaps on the walls.”
Paul Carlucci, The Secret Life of Fission

Rabi Chatterjee
“I was walking on the road. A man behind me suddenly told me my bag was open and I reacted to him, “Thank you” and closed my bag - A memorable day.”
Rabi Chatterjee, Finding and other stories

Barbara  Black
“My knowledge is just tiny pinpricks of light on a gigantic black sheet of ignorance.

From "Strangely Luminescent in the Dusk," Music from a Strange Planet”
Barbara Black, Music from a Strange Planet

Barbara  Black
“My knowledge is just tiny pinpricks of light on a gigantic black sheet of ignorance”
Barbara Black, Music from a Strange Planet

Mark Dossett
“The goat let out a god awful high pitched scream as it impaled itself on the shotgun barrel.
Shelton pushed the safety to the off position and fired.
Goat fur and blood splattered the inside of his Jeep”
Mark Dossett, Exit 999

“The dream unfolds: Somaly and I are sitting at a dinner table. She wears a white sampot covered in jewels perfectly matching her necklace. She’s almost akin to an apsara in a painting—aggressively elegant, like at any second, she’ll bend her hands backward to her wrists, and sway.”
Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties

“I raised you to care deeply, too much so. About words, for one thing. All those years spent working as a bilingual teacher’s aide, undoing what Khmer children learned at home, perhaps it had made me paranoid. I thought I needed to ensure your fluency in English, in being American. The last thing I had wanted was for you to end up like your Ba—speaking broken English to angry customers, his life covered in the grease of cars belonging to men who were more American. So I read to you as much as I could, packed your room with dictionaries and encyclopedias, played movies in English constantly in the background, and spoke Khmer only in whispers, behind closed doors. No wonder mere words affected you so much. Even now, you still think language is the key to everything. And that’s my fault—I thought the same thing.”
Anthony Veasna So, Afterparties

E.A. Mylonas
“Ma inhaled pig brain for years. Her own body, going into overdrive, started destroying itself. Who knew pig brains and human brains shared so much biology? Not something they taught at my school. Built and paid for by the Company.”
E.A. Mylonas

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