William Carlos Williams and the short story

williams Being succinct is often more difficult than being lofty. This is the realm of the short story writer; for the task of such an author is to come full circle; to satiate with a satisfying balance of beginning, middle, and end… all the while maintaining a full and open throttle…driving the plot in a degree that it sustains the interest of the reader while not diverging off course. Take no side trips, no matter how lovely a place they could lead you, for the short story is like the plane on a scheduled fight…we don’t wish the pilot to deviate from the flight plan.

And so I must confess that this blogger likes to read and write the short story even though it sometimes appears to have lost its momentum in the 21st century… yet I maintain that it is still alive and kicking…you just have to go into the gardens and weed them out…

Which brings us to today’s post where a path was cleared away again for our esteemed thinker: William Carlos Williams; poet, writer and defender of the modern literature and art movement in the 20th century. From his notes so aptly titled A Beginning on the Short Story, I have plucked from his writing a portion for us to ponder. I give you, Mr. Williams and the short story…

“… One chief advantage as against a novel- which is its nearest cousin-is that you do not have to bear in mind the complex structural paraphernalia of a novel on writing a short story and so may dwell on the manner, the writing. On the process itself. A single stroke, uncomplicated but complete. Not like a chapter or paragraph. Thus bearing a possible novel in mind, if you will, you can play with words as materials. You can try various modes of writing-more freely.Try all sorts of effects. The short story is a wonderful medium for prose experimentation. You may, economically try devices- varied devices-for making the word count toward a particular effect. … And be careful not to imitate yourself-like how many others. Remember: the imagination! The short story has all the elements of a larger work-but in petto. Dash off a story in an evening- any old way, try to follow the action of some characters you can imagine. Sit down blind and start to fling the words around like pigments-try to see what nature would do under the same circumstances –let ’em go and (without thinking or caring) see where they’ll lead you. You may be surprised-you may even end up as a disciplined writer…”

2 thoughts on “William Carlos Williams and the short story

  1. I have certain short stories in my head that will never get untangled from my brain’s cells. WCW’s “Use of Force” is one of them. It comes to mind so often–seems to apropos in so many situations. Many years ago when I went to school for my MFA, I wrote (fictional) short stories. Now I mainly only read ones which are blog posts as I’m reading other genres. You might be right, but I suspect they will make a comeback as they are . . . short.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s