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A short story must be, by definition, short. That’s the trouble with short stories. That’s why they’re so difficult to write. How do you keep a narrative brief and still have it function as a story? Compared to writing novels, writing short fiction is mainly a question of knowing what to leave out. What you leave in must imply everything that’s missing.
If you’d like to learn how to do this, you’d be well advised to study Denis Johnson’s blisteringly acute “Car-Crash While Hitchhiking.” In this story—and indeed, in all of the stories in Johnson’s brilliant collection, Jesus’ Son—Johnson found a way to leave out the maximum in terms of plot, setting characterization, and authorial explanation while finding a voice that suggested all these things, a voice whose brokenness is the reason behind the narrative deprivation, and therefore a kind of explanation itself. Read More