Monday, 26 September 2011

In Defence Of Short Stories #15: Anne Michaud

This week's In Defence Of Short Stories guest post comes courtesy of Anne Michaud, an author of genre short stories, novelettes and novels, some printed and others awaiting publication. She blogs here about her musings & little obsessions, and posts flash fiction every now and then.
 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.


J D Waye said...

Wonderful interview, Anne and James. The short story is here to stay. Novelists should stray into this territory - it changes the way the story is approached, bringing such an intensity to the economy of words.
Oh - and it's fun, too.

Alain Gomez said...

I know for a fact that I was required to read The Necklace as well. But I don't remember it. Time for a refresher course.

Fantastic guest post. I really enjoyed this one.

Your bit was good too, James.

Angela Addams said...

I read The Necklace in university...really loved it as well!

Great post Anne!