18 Dec Recommended Reading: 30 Superb Short Stories
Whenever authors ask me for writing advice, one of the first things I tell them is to read a lot. And not just in your chosen field either. Reading a wide cross-section of genres and styles will always help improve your craft. In fact, reading outside of your comfort zone can often help you to bring new ideas and approaches to the table in your own writing.
I’ve compiled here a list of thirty short stories (admittedly one of which stretches the definition of ‘short’). All of these are supremely excellent tales, and I believe that every one of them has something unique to teach when it comes to constructing narratives. I’ve taken care not to focus solely on horror, although there are plenty on the list that belong in our little corner of the literatureverse. I’d recommend that everyone with aspirations to write for the podcast – whether newcomers or returning authors – check these stories out if they get chance. Everything on the list is available to read online for free, with links provided in this post.
It’s important to mention however that this list is not intended to be a series of examples of how to write for the podcast specifically. There are stories here that simply couldn’t be adapted for audio, or wouldn’t be suitable. It’s important, I think, to read works that aren’t fully tailored to what you’re trying to achieve yourself. None of these stories have been on the show. This isn’t a how-to guide to write for audio, but rather a selection of tales which I think show a wonderful range of examples of how one can write in general. But also I believe that all of them have something to teach that could inform your writing for audio. There are plenty of styles you could go for beyond the first person narrator ‘this thing happened to me’ approach, and going forward into 2019 I’d like to try experimenting a little with framing devices on the show.
These stories display a wide variety of framing devices and perspectives. Many of them are extremely character-driven pieces while some of them really aren’t. Some are traditional, some are experimental. All of them are superb examples of storytelling. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I have over the years!
[Note: These are mature stories for an adult audience that deal with a wide range of topics. As such, many of them contain subject matter that some may find upsetting, including sexual violence, racism, child harm and death]
A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
A family goes on a road trip to Florida at the same time as a violent inmate has escaped from prison.
They’re Not Your Husband by Raymond Carver
A hard-working wife realizes some uncomfortable truths about her husband.
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
A village plays annual host to an unusual game of chance.
The Whole Town’s Sleeping by Ray Bradbury
A killer of women stalks a small town in summer.
The Palm Tree Bandit by Nnedi Okorafor
A woman tells her daughter about the larger-than-life legacy of her ancestor.
In The Vault by HP Lovecraft
An undertaker discovers why it’s a bad idea to cut corners when it comes to coffins.
Alive by MJ Pack
A man reminisces about the sinister events surrounding his first wife’s disappearance.
The Open Window by Saki
A young girl entertains her aunt’s guest with talk of a macabre family tragedy.
The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield
A privileged young woman is faced with a stark reminder of class divide.
The Mezzotint by MR James
A scholar comes into possession of an unusual print.
The Faery Handbag by Kelly Link
A woman becomes determined to find her grandma’s old handbag.
The Landlady by Roald Dahl
An enthusiastic young employee stumbles upon an unusual Bed & Breakfast when he arrives in Bath for his new position.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
A woman laments her incarceration at the hands of her husband.
The Three-Eyed Angel by Manen Lyset
An unusual angel delivers a horrifying message to humanity.
Especially Heinous: 272 Views of Law & Order SVU by Carmen Maria Machado
Synopses for Law & Order begin to paint a harrowing, unexpected picture.
Guts by Chuck Palahniuk
A man recounts the details of his horrifying teenage swimming pool mishap.
Patient Zero by Tananarive Due
A young boy chronicles his time in an isolation ward.
A Rich Man by Edward P Jones
An elderly man’s life takes an unexpected direction after the death of his wife.
Mayhem Mountain by CK Walker
A group of friends purchase the theme park they loved growing up.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
A plantation owner plots to escape his execution.
Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood
A middle-aged woman unexpectedly encounters her high school rapist while on an Arctic cruise.
Candle Cove by Kris Straub
Forum-goers reminisce over a childhood TV show they’ve never been able to forget.
Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? by Joyce Carol Oates
A precocious teen girl draws the attention of a dangerous-seeming boy.
Click-clack the Rattlebag by Neil Gaiman
A man is told a disturbing story when he babysits his girlfriend’s young brother.
Haunted House by Virginia Woolf
A deceased couple linger in a house after death.
He-y, come on ou-t by Shinichi Hoshi
A mysterious hole is discovered outside a village following a terrible storm.
Man-Size in Marble by Edith Nesbit
A man and his wife discover unsettling statues in a nearby church.
The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen
A group of men look into the events surrounding a strange and potentially deadly woman.
The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K LeGuin
The idyllic happiness of a lovely town is discovered to come at a terrible cost.
Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
In a world where equality is enforced, some resent being unable to fulfil their potential.