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In Longing for Short Stories

By 22/08/2023August 29th, 2023Featured, short story
If you are a writer, which do you prefer? As a reader, do you find short stories easier or more difficult to read than novels?
Short stories were my first love. They were my gateway drug to reading, because my father was a huge fan of Chekov and Maugham, and had their entire collections. Of course, we also had other masters of short stories like Gogol, Borges, Hemingway and Carver. Over time I discovered Amy Hempel, Alice Munro, Lydia Davis.
It is no surprise therefore that I began my writing journey with short stories. And now that I’ve only written novels for the last few years with the occasional flash fiction thrown in, I wanted to share one of my short stories with you. It seems to stand up to my own rather snobbish standards… it seems to bear up to reading nearly a decade after it was first published.

Black and yellow pit vipers lazed in durian trees, sleepy and fat under the Penang sun. Visitors to Mr Henderson’s plantation in Balik Pulau did not notice them at first, busy defending the split- open durians from the flies swarming their tables. Mr Henderson watched the tourists as they jabbered like magpies. Their eyes shone in lust for the creamy insides of the fruit, snakes the last things on their greedy little minds.

Into the open cartons under their tables they tossed the hollowed- out, spiky durian corpses and the plastic glasses from which they had just downed nutmeg juice. Over the years, Mr Henderson’s nose had so grown used to the cloying durian and the spice of nutmeg that he didn’t notice when they mingled with the plantation smell of damp, rain and joss sticks. But today the air seemed drugged by the smells rising from the courtyard. Mr Henderson took in a deep breath and decided to rest his legs. The chair on the balcony creaked under his weight, and he stretched his long legs far out across the wooden balustrade.

Inside, the old pendulum clock struck eleven. Its gong rang through the corridors of the wood-and-brick Kampong house, rose up against the shaded eaves, shivered against the doors of the rooms upstairs, then fell down towards the open kitchen. It mingled with the smoke that rose from large covered pots heating over a wood fire and came back to haunt Mr Henderson again. He hated that clock, a wedding gift from his father-in-law. But his wife liked it and he’d let it stay.

His head drooped in the wake of the ringing and the sunlight melted into an orange haze behind his shut eyelids. No matter that he’d now lived longer in Penang than in Ottawa – the daily tropical sun still felt like a personal blessing. He soaked it up and felt sleep crawl up over him. He needed to lie down, get an hour or so of uninterrupted shut-eye. But he wouldn’t give in to it, not just yet.


Read the rest of the story here. (Might need to scroll down a little)

Novels and short stories are such different beasts–I admire authors who have equal felicity in both. I find both quite difficult and haven’t really been able to produce a decent short story in all the time I’ve been focused on novels.

Short stories need to show an entire world in a very few words, which is devilishly tough.  A novel offers more space to depict a world, but it involves keeping so many plates spinning in air, without dropping any. And it takes serious work over years in some cases, depending on the novel you’re writing.

In the coming months and years, I hope I can finish a few more short stories so I can pitch a short story collection–I have some that might bear collecting, others not so much.

What about you? Do you find short stories and novels very different? How ? If you are a writer, which do you prefer? As a reader, do you find short stories easier or more difficult to read than novels?

My literary crime novel, The Blue Bar is on Kindle Unlimited now. Add it to Goodreads or snag a copy to make my day. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon is up for pre-orders! And if you’d like to read a book outside the series, you can check out You Beneath Your Skin.  Find all info about my books on my Amazon page or Linktree.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • dgkaye says:

    Beautiful storytelling Damyanti. And I loved what you said about two different writing styles but hard work on both. I actually prefer reading a book of short stories in between novellas. And I love novels with short chapters. No surprise I write in the same fashion. <3

  • jemima pett says:

    This is why I love your stories so much. That was so moving… you write so beautifully. You steal all my emotions out of me to join you on the page….
    I think I should stick to your short stories for a while longer. 🙂

    • DamyantiB says:

      That is so kind, thank you! This is the reason why I write! I’m incredibly grateful for your support, and I hope my other short stories end up being equally as impactful.

  • Mick Canning says:

    Excellent story. You mentioned Maugham, and that seems a strong influence there!

    I find short stories and novels different, but not as much as some people. I like to think of a short story as being a very short novel – it needs to be as complete as a novel, and it needs to convey its world and story as well.

    • DamyantiB says:

      I agree! That’s the challenge — being able to portray the world in your head on a page, without losing any of the clarity required for it to be recognizable.

  • Enjoyed the read. You have a unique ability with words to take us into the story and see it with our own eyes.

  • I am a big fan of short stories. They often haunt me in ways a novel cannot.
    Thank you for sharing this poignant and painful one of yours.

    • DamyantiB says:

      Thank you for reading it! Many of my favorite short stories have stuck with me for years, simply because of how deeply they struck a chord. I completely understand what you mean about how haunting they can be.

  • arlene says:

    I love your story but I hate the snakes🥰

  • Asha Seth says:

    I agree with you. Short stories are a totally different ball game compared to novels. I’ve forever been a short story person. I enjoyed your story.

    • DamyantiB says:

      So different to read and to write! I’m happy you enjoyed it — hopefully, in time, I’ll be able to come up with more to share!

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