Mark Haddon: ‘I’ve read too many beige short stories in my life’



I’d been trying to write short stories for a long time, failing, throwing them away, trying again, failing, throwing them away. I was driven by sheer bloody-mindedness more than anything else. After all, short stories are just strings of well-chosen words. I’d written a novel, I’d written for radio and TV, I’d written books for children. How hard could it be to tell a satisfying story in a few thousand words? The puzzle infuriated me.

I’d started to wonder if the prevailing wisdom was correct, that there is a profound, near-mystical difference between novels and short stories, that the latter is a form that demands more skill and involves higher risks and whose success depends on giving readers something far more intangible and refined than the joy of reading well-constructed prose, the seductive pull of imaginary lives and the desire to know what is going to happen next.

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