Short story writing looks easy on the face of it, and is less intimidating sure, but to pack in a punch is not easy. How does one differentiate oneself? How to write that one twist that makes the reader think about the story for a long time after he has finished and probably quote it his entire life?
I find this form of writing exciting and challenging and use it to supplement my attempts at writing a full-length novel. Novels are more sale-able, yet there are those who’ve made a fortune and gained fame with their wonderful short stories ─ Alice Munro, Saadat Hasan Manto, Guy de Maupassant, Henry Miller are only a few of the ones I’ve read and loved.
And sometimes you just have that one idea that needs to be written, no? Like written NOW.
In the years when traditional publishing was more popular, I’ve had a few published in them (DNA – Me (when it existed), The Statesmen (Voices) and a couple of anthologies and really short-shorts). Here are a few I’ve written that are available online – and I intend to update this page as I get more of them (fingers crossed) published.
Snow Owl: Was republished in Fem— a magazine of inclusive, diverse, feminist literature. The story was very empowering for me to write and I also feature one of my favorite places on earth (Goa) and my favorite time of the year (Monsoons). I’m sure you’ll love it too. Read here.
Misfits is a swansong of two ex-lovers who meet after a period of estrangement. The 1,600 word short story is a narrative of their meeting and the usual questions that come along with it: Who was at fault, were they wrong to let each other go, could they work it out still? The story attempts to explore the miasma of such a phase after a separation where yearning jostles with painful memories and it takes but a nudge to fall over to one side. One of my definite favorites.
Read here at Litro
The Djinns of Maya:
A 2,500 word fable of a little girl who with a few of her animal helpers go in search of a mythical flower. The story talks about the need to preserve our natural and cultural heritage instead of ravaging them in the name of development. It’s also a tale of courage and faith, and following your dreams, no matter what the obstacles.
Read at Slink Chunk Press
A 5,300 word story of a woman who escaped to India during the Bengal (India) partition of 1947 and saw better days, but had to live with a bitter secret all her life. The story is narrated by her niece, a reluctant observer, who learns of her aunt’s escape from her elders and watches her grapple with nightmares from that day on. But while her aunt’s life purportedly turned for the better, only after her death does her niece discover what the escape cost her.
I loved this one, especially because it calls out to my immigrant heritage. My father has so often talked of the makal fruit and other memories of his hometown in Bangladesh, which now he might never visit again.
A ‘Ghost Buster’ themed story appeared in Earthen Lamp Journal. It was quick and easy to write and lots of fun too. Haven’t you wondered, as a child, if the television held a world inside, far removed from the one you were living? What gory secrets might it hold?
My short story Maruni’s Chair was published in Chicago Literati’s Magical Realism Issue. I really enjoy magical realism as a genre and this story was inspired by my Ma’s obsession with one specific chair in our house: it’s her comfort in the morning and her succor after a long day. She has her tea sitting on it, watches television and indulges in her prolonged ruminations. Never mind that the chair is a cheap, white plastic thingie with one leg almost coming off. The story though is supernaturalish. It’s an account of a woman who, despite the happiness surrounding her, cannot let go of the death of a loved one and deals with it in a bizarre manner. In essence, it’s a portrayal of marriage—or any permanent, sustaining form of attachment—and how we seek comfort from it.
I wrote this story one rainy evening in Mumbai when the rains were lashing on the walls as if beating on drums and the trees outside swayed like long clawed ghosts. It was both heart-thumping and magical at the same time (know the feeling?). So while, Snow Owl is in essence a romantic story, the characters are whimsical ─ a clash of opposites if you will, and the story dreamy ─ a flash in the pan sort of event that leads to a lifetime of magic and intrigue. Every regular life can turn into this, yours and mine, and while there is never a logical end (and better if there is not), the road is charmed enough and that life worth living. This was published in Fiction Magazines.
The Princess of the Northern Hills: This very short story was published in the June issue of East Lit, a reputed Asian journal focused on writing, literature and art specifically from or connected to East and South East Asia. It’s a story of two young girls who make up an alternate life to escape the hardships of their current. The story is almost totally in metaphor and conversations and I thought it moving (and cried a bit after I wrote it). Read in East Lit.
Dinner Conversations: A couple of years ago, I won a national level short story competition run by the Pune based Pomegranate group. I’d given up serious writing for a while but I thought to dress up an existing story and send it on a whim, and lo, behold, it was picked and published. In a way, this triggered my return to serious writing. One often forgets what one can do, and a timely reminder is all that is needed. This was that.
The story is on how lonely we all are becoming and yet, instead of reaching out to people, we find other (less healthy) means to escape it. Buy here. (Yeah, you may have to buy the physical version of this one, but the collection has some stellar stories, even without mine :))
Dignity: I wrote this one on my blog a long time ago. It was triggered by a report on a bunch of Dalit women congregating at a local minister’s office to seek justice for various offences (water line being cut off, flogging by the upper castes, forcible eviction, and murder of husband… the works). One young girl had come to seek justice against her rapists. The story is completely fictional, rising from that one sentence in the newspaper. Read here.
For those who love to dabble in short story writing and are looking to get published, do these things.
- Get it beta read: Just like a novel, check if your story is good enough. Test with a few people to see a) does it surprise b) is it too small c) is it too long? Typically, magazines pick stories between 2,000 to 4,000 words. Try keeping your story within the limit.
- Get it edited: Go cheap, if needed. Check what level of editing you need – a simple line edit or proof read is usually good enough. Do a basic edit but do it before you submit. Most online magazines run on tight budgets and if they see your story needs a lot of work, they might reject it over ‘easier’ ones
- Check out open calls: See these links.
Or google. Plenty looking out there. But remember, plenty applying as well.
4. Take care to write a good cover letter and pitch. Again, treat this as important a baby as your novel. It may just get read more number of times and set your worth as a writer of note
5. Upload and submit