And if you head over to her blog right now (but come back, obviously) you can win a copy of Tattered Souls Volume 2 an excellent looking anthology feature one of Anne's stories. I repeat, head there right now (okay, technically you have until October 3rd).
Anne's post looks at a particular author of short stories who provided early inspiration; one I'm ashamed to say I've never even read. I'm such a fraud.
Take it away Anne...
Anne Michaud, Great Defender of the Short Story
I first fell in love with reading because of Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace. I was nine, highly impressed by French authors, and had to write a paper on the importance of honesty. I don’t remember the teacher who asked for the homework or even the grade he gave me, but the story, I’ll never forget.
The twist at the end left such a deep mark, I don’t think I’ve experienced such surprise reading anything since. It hooked me to that form of literature, and I seek it in every visit to my house of worship: the bookstore. I buy anthologies and collections in every genre, because I feel for the characters after knowing them after only a couple of pages—and not necessarily throughout the plot, but especially at the end, once the twist is revealed.
It’s been years since I read The Necklace, and dread still tingles the back of my neck whenever I think of Mademoiselle Loisel’s ruined life, and the great lesson that, indeed, honesty is always the best way to go. Was Maupassant a life teacher or a writer, I wonder? He knew how to build suspense, mystery and drama in such a short span.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love novels, but there’s something economical about short stories that is impossible to find in longer works. An urgency, a lack of trivial details, this element of surprise at the end that seems so much more powerful than when implanted into a higher word count.
I’m always disappointed when I read magazines and anthology submission guidelines asking for non-twist endings – what’s the point? Isn’t it an intricate part of short storytelling to shock readers by a clever turn of events? That’s why I love shorter works, to fight back a smile at how the writer was two steps ahead of me, how after reading so many books, there’s still something new I can find on their pages.
As a writer, I approach the short story just as I do a novel, even more carefully since every word weighs so much more. And of course, the final twist is so important, I don’t start writing until the perfect ending comes to me. I have Maupassant to thank for that.