It is often suggested that writing a good short story is more difficult than writing a good novel. Like all generalisations it is only partially true. A novel demands a long period of sustained writing with many drafts and revisions. A short story can be written in an afternoon. It can have an arc that takes the reader to a definite ending. It can be read in one sitting. In that sense it is easier to write than a novel. But to be a good story it needs to draw the reader in immediately and convey all that the reader needs to know in a few sentences. That is far from easy.

Of course there are as many types of short stories as they are types of novels. Some can be enigmatically short like Ernest Hemingway’s famous six word short story. ‘Baby shoes: for sale. Never worn.’ Others can be lengthy and full of glittering detail like James Joyce’s The Dead that seems to hold the whole of Ireland in its embrace. I particularly love Chekhov’s short stories. More than most writers he gets to the heart of the human condition.

Because I worked as a psychotherapist my stories are often connected to psychotherapy. ‘The Seat’ and ‘Helena’ are two examples. In both stories the therapist is struggling with his own conflicts and desires, something that is too often left out of accounts of psychotherapy.

The Seat