Earlier this week I received an e-mail from someone who had read one of my short stories and wrote to say she loved it. Her e-mail made my day, not only because of her kind words, but also because she is a wonderful writer with a strong and compelling voice of her own.
I love writing and reading short stories, but I'm mystified when a story I thought wasn't my best work is one that has success. Then I'm disappointed when another story I believe will be heaped with praise doesn't make the cut. How does that happen?
I often question if there is a "magic formula" for what makes a story work. To find the answer to my question, I decided to dig deep. After hours of research, I uncovered what some of my favorite short story writers had to say about the mystery of writing.
When Flannery O’Connor was asked about what she thought makes a story work, she wrote: “. . . it is probably some action, some gesture of a character that is unlike any other in the story, one which indicates where the real heart of the story lies."
According to O'Connor, the two qualities that make fiction are "a sense of mystery and a sense of manners."