Writing Short Stories

June 4, 2015

JAPAN kyoto writing short stories murakami

“One more nice thing about short stories is that you can create a story out of the smallest details -an idea that springs up in your mind, a word, an image, whatever. In most cases it’s like jazz improvisation, with the story taking me where it wants to. And another good point is that with short stories you don’t have to worry about failing. If the idea doesn’t work out the way you hoped it would, you just shrug your shoulders and tell yourself that they can’t all be winners. Even with masters of the genre like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Raymond Carver -even Anton Chekhov- not every short story is a masterpiece. I find this a great comfort. You can learn from your mistakes (in other words, those you can’t call complete success) and use that in the next story you write.”

– Haruki Murakami

Murakami is hands down, one of the most talented (and well-loved) writers on my bookshelf. His style – both the magical realism and heartbreaking reality – come together in a way that compels me to fall in love with each and every one of his characters, fall into his carefully constructed world, and seek to find the magic in my own. I admire him as both a reader and writer, and have found that his work has subtly interloped itself into my own experiences and inspirations. The other day, I stumbled across a quote of his (above) on writing short stories. And it made perfect sense to me.

Writing short stories is hard – one of the hardest writing exercises I can think of. But there is also sort of a transcendent beauty about the whole endeavor, which Murakami touches on above, and which (for me) J.D. Salinger really gets. There are many different takes on what makes up a short story, going from a single moment in time to a full (if small) story arc. I am personally drawn to consuming and creating those single-moment stories, because of how they train you to zero in on the details and nuances of a situation and its characters. Stripping away the bells and whistles of a story takes discipline, and it’s good to practice from time to time.

Coming across Murakami’s words earlier was a nice reminder of the spirit of writing, and was also a little kick in the butt. I’ve kept my distance from pen and paper as of late, and need to get back into the game. Here’s to seeing something that makes you smile or makes your heart hurt, and writing it down. Here’s to inspiring others.



PS- If you’re curious about where to start with Murakami, or (better yet) want to read a short story of his, click here. This was his first work I’d ever read, and also the first short story that I utterly fell in love with.


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