Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The closet

"I took a workshop with Christine Schutt once and she compared writing a short story to giving someone a tour of your house. You lead your reader into the house, but you don’t let her go in the sun-drenched kitchen, you don’t let her peek into the sprawling living room, you don’t let her linger in the foyer. You take her directly to the closet and show her the inside. That’s what a short story is. The inside of the closet and nothing else. I think about that all the time."

--Erin Somers, interviewed at One Teen Story

I think some of this is about the directness of a short story: You don't have much space. You don't have much time to get to the point, so you get to the point. You can't do a lot of introduction or exposition. You take people right to the hidden heart of the story.

But this is also about any story, even a thousand-page novel. Maybe with a long novel you can take people on a tour of the house before you reach the closet, but the story is really about the moment when you open the closet door. Whatever has been hidden, whatever has been held onto, whatever hasn't been prettied up for others, wherever "backstage" is, wherever things collect, that is where the story is.


  1. Nice thoughts. And in every revision, we take more rooms off the tour, I think.