Joy Williams' 8 Essential Attributes Of The Short Story

Joy Williams’ 8 Essential Attributes Of The Short Story


In this post from Writers Write, your one-stop writing resource, we share American writer, Joy Williams’ 8 Essential Attributes Of The Short Story.

Joy Williams is an American novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Her novels include The Quick and the Dead and State of Grace. She was born 11 February 1944.

She explores ‘the failure of life in America, from a spiritual as well as economic perspective, as a virtual certainty. Her characters, generally from the middle class, frequently fall from it, at times in bizarre fashion, in a form of cultural dispossession.’ (via)

Her first collection of short stories, Taking Care, was published in 1982. Here are her tips for short story writers.

Eight Essential Attributes Of The Short Story (Source)

  1. There should be a clean clear surface with much disturbance below.
  2. An anagogical level.
  3. Sentences that can stand strikingly alone.
  4. An animal within to give its blessing.
  5. Interior voices which are or become wildly erratically exterior.
  6. Control throughout is absolutely necessary.
  7. The story’s effect should transcend the naturalness and accessibility of its situation and language.
  8. A certain coldness is required in execution. It is not a form that gives itself to consolation but if consolation is offered it should come from an unexpected quarter.

And One Way It Differs From The Novel

  1. A novel wants to befriend you, a short story almost never.

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Top Tip: Find out more about our Writing Courses. If you want to learn how to write a short story, join us for Short Cuts in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Amanda Patterson

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This article has 1 comment

  1. Anne

    That approach may well work for Ms. Williams, but me – I’m just a simple story-teller. What you see on the surface is what your get. To anyone aspiring to write flash fiction (as I do) my advice would be: every word must have a job to do. If it doesn’t – cut it out.

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