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Monday, March 9, 2015

Short Stories: Why Write Them? by Maggie King

Short Stories: Why Write Them?

Do you write short stories? If so, you know how satisfying and enjoyable they can be. But for the past three or four decades many writers and readers have turned their backs on these literary gems, considering them mere writing class exercises. Not any more—shorts are back with a vengeance, due in large part to the e-book. Author and blogger Anne R. Allen says we’re in a new golden age of short fiction. See her complete post here.  

Here are just a few reasons to try this time-honored medium:

·         After struggling with your novel, writing short can give you a feeling of accomplishment;
·         It helps you to hone your writing skills;
·         While writing short is a challenge like any good writing (you need to develop a compelling plot and characters), but as you’re dealing with a minimum of scenes and characters, the process is simpler;
·         It keeps you fresh material to promote while you’re working on your novel, keeping your readers engaged;
·         In a short piece, you can resurrect scenes and characters that got edited out of your novel;
·         You can further develop a minor character from your novel in a short piece;
·         You can experiment with new genres

Many Sisters in Crime chapters have published anthologies. My own Central Virginia chapter collaborated with the Mysteries by the Sea chapter (Virginia Beach) and published the Virginia is for Mysteries anthology in 2014. I contributed the story “A Not So Genteel Murder.” My second story, “Reunion in Shockoe Slip,” was accepted for Virginia is for Mysteries II.

My friend Caroline gifted me with a copy of Murder in La-La Land by the Sisters in Crime Los Angeles chapter. As a special treat she had each contributing author sign the copy at an event held at the Santa Monica Public Library.

I have to say that I’ve turned into a fan of short stories and plan to make them a significant part of my oeuvre (I love that word!). I’m in the “thinking” stages of plotting a flash fiction piece. Sunny Frazier gave me a nudge recently with her chilling True Confections: A Valentine’s Day Mystery Short Story.

Ready to get started on this exciting and rewarding writing medium? Read and study the works of the greats in the mystery genre: Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, and Ruth Rendell. And check out your talented Sisters and Misters in Crime—you can view the cover art for their anthologies and learn about the guidelines for producing one for your chapter here.

For more information on writing short stories, check these resources:

A compendium of courses, teaching guides, and articles are here.
Short Mystery Fiction Society (SMFS). Join and maybe you’ll win a Derringer!
Kurt Vonnegut’s eight tips for writing a good short story are here.

Do you write short fiction? If so, do you enjoy the process?


Maggie King is the author of Murder at the Book Group, published in 2014 by Simon and Schuster. She contributed the short story, “A Not So Genteel Murder,” to the Sisters in Crime anthology Virginia is for Mysteries. Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor.



Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

Visit Maggie at www.maggieking.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/maggie.e.king, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MaggieKingAuthr.


Nothing can kill a good book group discussion like cold-blooded murder. Especially when the victim is one of the group’s own. Cyanide is the topic du jour for the mystery fanatics of Murder on Tour, but for their poor hostess, Car­lene Arness—who just published her own whodunit—it makes for a surprise ending. One minute, Carlene is speaking animatedly about featuring the poison in her new book. The next, she’s slumped over in a chair, dead from a sip of tea. Did the writer take her research too far? Or did one of the group’s members take a love of true crime to the extreme?


Founding member Hazel Rose is rounding up suspects. Any of her fellow bibliophiles could be the killer. And she soon discovers that almost all of them had a motive. Even Hazel herself, whose ex-husband married Carlene, could be accused of harboring jealousy. The truth is, Carlene wasn’t just hard to read, she was also hard to like—and the scandalous secrets Hazel unearths would make Carlene’s idol, Agatha Christie, turn over in her grave.

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