There must have been a book, once upon a time, that somehow made me a reader. The book would have been a story that took me on an unknown adventure with pictures, since my own imagination was limited to my toddler mind. I wonder what book that might have been? I do remember a big blue book with many, many stories, some just a page or two long and all the stories having colourless pictures. It was the called The Grimm’s Fairy Tales and the book was my first introduction to the tales of Cinderella, Hansel and Gretal, and Rapunzel. It would be years before my mind saw the colourful Disney versions in comparison to the darker, even more gruesome, tales written by The Brothers Grimm. For example, The Brothers Grimm wrote of a step sister cutting off her toe to get the glass slipper to fit. There was no toe chopping in Disney’s Cinderella.
Those dabs of darkness, even blood (“Then he looked at her foot and saw how the blood was running from it”- from Cinderella by The Brothers Grimm) are likely not found in children’s stories today but I am grateful for having been a child, once upon a time, whose fairy tale reads were not so Disney cute. Life can be, dare I say, a gruesome mess at times. The Grimm Brothers wrote complex characters who made choices that led to tales of death or of everlasting love. Their stories may be termed ‘disturbing’ today and the retellings have been changed to be more appropriate for children’s eyes and ears. I know they are not ones I would willingly read to my grandchildren. However, I do still seek stories that end rather a little messy than neatly tie up in fairy tale perfection.
Maybe that is why I am drawn to the stories in literary journals where life’s darker themes are often explored and endings are more like beginnings. These stories can show the messiness of life through precise paragraphs and sentences and words —nothing is out of place and not necessary. Literary short stories, like fairy tales, focus on one event, yet still have all the elements of a novel: character, plot, conflict, setting and theme. Like a beautiful painting, an excellent literary short story captures details in a single writing piece that leaves one lingering over the structure and details.
Short story writers, like all story writers, have to chop and cut. Short story writers, like all writers, can feel bruised after battling through the edits. And short story writers, like all writers, experience rejections. Although the short stories I have written thus far have not been accepted for publication, I carry on writing. Sometimes there is darkness and messiness, but there is also always grace and hope, too.
After all, hope is no fairy tale.
But for those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
You can read more of Lynn's writings on the writing life and other tales at Lynn J Simpson, Author/Coach/Photographer