I may know art, but I don’t know what I like.
I’ve always liked the absurd way that sounds.
I have an aunt who is an educated artist. She has spent many years of her adult life taking courses in art at a major university. She has studied all mediums including sculpture, painting, and drawing. She spends most of her time with stained glass, (which, I am proud to say, I introduced her to the medium), and has produced many strikingly beautiful pieces. Each masterpiece is placed artistically in the appropriate window of her home to take advantage of the available ambient or direct sunlight.
My aunt can tell you that there a characteristics to art that make it good or bad. And that when artists hear people standing before their work and repeat that immortal phrase that I so consistently twist, their backs arch and the word ‘peasant’ comes to mind. But, just because the picture of the dogs playing poker makes us laugh, it doesn’t make it good art. Or, just because we think the idea of dogs playing poker is moronic, doesn’t mean it is not good art.
Like art, a short story has characteristics that make it a good piece of writing, or a bad one. We spend much of our time identifying what makes a good story and what makes a bad one. As a reader of short stories, (I’m one of the guys that has to read the stories submitted to Flagship for inclusion in our eReader publication), I don’t dissect a story as I read it. I don’t think, “Is this character believable?”, “Is his motivation plausible?”, “Is there a hook or conflict?”
I look for stories that are easy to read, that grab me from the beginning and compel me to stay with it to the end. I look for stories that make me want to ‘hang out’ with the characters and learn more about them, or cheer them along in their challenges. I look for stories that flow and take logical consistent steps forward, and don’t wander around with thick and distracting exposition.
In the end, I want to find stories that, whether you know what makes them good or not, when you pick up your Kindle, or your In the end, I want to find stories that, whether you know what makes them good or not, when you pick up your Kindle, or your iPhone, or read it on your desktop in Stanza or as a .pdf, you will be absorbed into the stories and be satisfied with the price you paid for them.