A story review a few months ago criticized it as reading like a memoir. That surprised me. The story originated from a personal experience, but I had changed characters, details, and motivations. Yet I couldn’t dismiss the criticism cavalierly. The reviewer scored with other points. I became alert for descriptions that would clarify the memoir comment.
Two weeks ago, another review, this of a science fiction story, cited its memoir-like quality. She pointed to threads that did not contribute to the theme and to the less-than-cataclysmic events in the story. Then I understood.
The classic short story introduces no idea which does not bear on its central concern. Each beat should have consequences for the protagonist. The supporting characters must be honed to highlight the main story issue. Everything is logically related. Coincidence is anathema, outside the initial willful suspension of disbelief.
The classic short story prefers round characters, but unity, brevity, and logic often result in the supporting characters displaying only their aspects relevant to the main issue. I.e. they have two dimensions rather than to three.
The memoir form creates verisimilitude with the existence of sidelines that do not bear on the main issue and with secondary characters who pursue their own interests in the protagonist’s story. Although logic dominates the plot action, the uncertainty of probabilities can be involved in a memoir’s resolution.
The memoir style appeals to those who want to relate meaningful stories that one could imagine happening in their circle, not just to those of heightened emotions and intense focus of goals.
What Do You Think?
Do you prefer classic short stories where a shotgun in the first act must be used by the third?
Give Gabby a read. It’s very short. A couple of minutes to see if the memoir style repays you.
Fountain pen image. Petar Miloševic, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons