The purpose of a Short Story

Perhaps the question you are now asking is: What is the purpose? Why should we undertake this journey at all? Yes…

What is the whole idea of writing a short story? Yes, what is the purpose of a short story? Good question, this!

I remember reading "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant.

After reading it, and learning of the tragedy that befell Madame Loisel, I was like: “Gosh! Golly! What great misfortune!”

If its purpose was to produce such a response, he certainly achieved it!

No question then about it: The intentions of a short story writer are obvious. After you are done reading the story, she wants you to wince, cry, laugh, shudder, frown, sigh, groan, sulk—yes, do any of those things. In short, she wants you to:

Respond in one way or the other.

You see, I have learned that writers are commentators on everyday issues. They just don’t make lame comments. They capture a moment in time, or moments in time, create a character or two, fiddle around with them and subtly but persuasively prod you to agree with them in their conclusions.

For example, if something happens that bewilders me greatly, with excitement burning in my eyes, I usually say, “I am going to write about it! I definitely am!”

Then I rush home, sit on my computer and type away furiously. To me, stories help me to get my point across, and give people out there a piece of my mind. Interestingly enough, when I write about something that bewildered me or perplexed me, it usually makes sense and I begin to see round it, so to speak. So writing sometimes is a way of solving problems.

Most stories have what is known as the moral or lesson that the writer wants people to learn. They create a character that acts imprudently and gets burned for it in the end. They want the reader to think, “I would never behave that way myself!”

Most of the time however, the moral is not so clear, and sometimes there is none! But even so, the writer wants to produce some kind of emotional response in the reader, be it anger, surprise or even happiness. After all, what is the point of writing a story when people will feel nothing after reading it?

To do this, writers use a lot of different techniques, ranging from irony, change of fortune to abrupt and surprising endings.

For example, in “Girl Power,” by LJ Kundananji, he employs a surprise and abrupt ending in which the girls who have been talking disparagingly about a certain ‘Big John Sleepy-Head’ are taken by storm when he actually shows up in the room looking for one of them:

"...The door flew wide open and in walked Big John Sleepy-head. The girls stared at him in horror and sheer disbelief.

“Hi girls!” he greeted merrily, “Is this where I can find Bessie?””

At this point the story ends, with no explanation at all as to why John is looking for Bessie, but it sure does leave the reader startled and intensely curious. She remains reaching conclusions in her heart. LJ certainly has achieved the effect that he wants to produce in his readers. The story has achieved its purpose.

So if you want to be a good story writer, you must learn how to play around with your character in such a manner that you elicit the desired response in the reader. We are going to see how we can do that soon.

But for now, think about this:

What is it that you really want to tell people out there?

You may want to address a certain unpleasant situation, or you may just want to give people a piece of your mind. Story writing enables you to do that, and it makes it fun too!

I am sure that you are now ready for the journey because you now know the purpose!


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