This week, I review four short stories of various lengths. A disclaimer: I suppose I am not actually reviewing, if that implies passing judgement on a work. If a story appears on my blog, I enjoyed it enough to mention it here.
Let's start with the longest story: Night Flight to Bali by Jane K. Cleland, appearing in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine September/October 2017. I estimate this to be well over five thousand words.
Sabrina has just lost her mother. She plans to run away to Bali with her married boyfriend Sam. The story unfolds with subtle hints that open layers of intrigue.
There are rules for short story writing, and Night Flight to Bali breaks more than one, with success. One is the author must jump immediately into the action. Another is to stick to one point of view. The thing about rules is you shouldn't break them unless you know what you're doing. Cleland clearly does, as the sedately paced opening sets the groundwork for the rest of the tale. The story could not be told as effectively without going into different points of view.
By the end of the story, I felt like I'd been taken on a roller coaster ride. The pace quickens, and unexpected twists lead to a closing that implied this wasn't over. Not yet.
Minnie's Mincemeat Pie by Dale T. Phillips appears in Mystery Weekly. I'm a sucker for stories about feisty old ladies getting in trouble. Viola is enraged that Minnie takes first place for her mincemeat pie in a local fair every year.
At close to three thousand words, this story has lots of dialogue and is spare on description. It almost reads like a play.
Viola is determined to get Minnie's recipe. Her contempt for the other woman and her successful pie business is clear. "The old bat had to be in her seventies, not a comfortable fortyish like Viola."
Viola attempts to bully her way to the recipe, but Minnie is full of surprises.
Yoga Kills by J. R. Lindermuth is a bit over two thousand words. Ed has lost his job, a victim of a factory closing. He would probably veg in front of the TV, but his wife Nan is watching a yoga video and performing moves with amazing flexibility. Nan suggests he's depressed, and sends him to the neighborhood bar.
Ed suspects Nan has joined a gym because she's having an affair. He decides to pursue the lithe yoga instructor in the video.
Don't make assumptions seems to be a theme of this story, which ends with a delightful twist.
Consequences by Leslie Budewitz is a lesson in brevity. I can easily imagine this story as a major plot-line in a novel, yet it works as flash fiction. A campfire, a girl, and an old man set the stage for an encounter in the astonishing pace of less than 150 words.
Four short stories, four different lengths. I hope this week's review has whetted your appetite for short fiction from the many venues available.
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