Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story by Vanessa Gebbie

Short Circuit by Vanessa Gebbie

A lot of books about the art and craft of writing have very uninspiring covers. From bearded academics to meaningless out of focus shots. This cover makes a refreshing change. At first glance if it just a head with cogs grinding away. The more you look at it the more symbolism pops out of you. It helps that this is a nice sized book that really shows off the cover art.

I love short stories. A great one is a perfectly formed effortless read. They look so simple, so easy. Surely anybody could write a decent one with a minimum of effort. It turned out that writing short fiction that flows is a damn sight harder than it looks. This was the position from which I bought this book.

First things first. This book is not going to explicitly state a definitive way to do anything. You will not become a best selling author just from reading this book. What this book does give you are some extra tools. One of the key lessons that gets repeated is that reading is key. Targeted reading if possible. Each contributor to this book has put a selection of their favourite short stories at the end.  I have put together a list based on recommendations in this book for further reading. That was instant win for me.

For me the structure of this book worked really well. There are discreet sections by the various contributors. Each section starts with an informative and easy to follow description that succinctly demonstrates the title of the section. Some books would stop and be happy with that, but this one goes further. At the end of each section there are exercises that help build on the points made. Some are as simple as getting you to think of a situation and twisting it in a certain direction. They are simple and yet highly effective in getting the reader to think and imagine something they had not thought of before. The bits I wasn’t so sure about I could look at the recommended list of short stories by the author of that section and get a better idea of what they were talking about.

Although I read this story from cover to cover I think the most benefit can be gained from dipping in and out of it as needed. I found this to be an inspiring read and already have post-it notes adorning several pages.


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