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. This is the reason so many novels fail to get completed and, even when completed, fail to be published. I have finished two novels and started many more. The completed novels are psychological thrillers, and both gather dust on the shelf unseen by all but my family and a few close friends. I am my greatest critic; my novels are just not good enough. This is not the same as not being good enough to be published and read. There are many published novels that are as bad or worse than mine. But I am not sufficiently sold on my two novels to hawk them around agents and publishers in the hope of getting a favourable response.
I have written numerous short stories. 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. In the two here – ‘The Seat’ and ‘Helena’ – I am interested in the human side of practising psychotherapy. In both stories the therapist is struggling with his own conflicts and desires, something that is too often left out of accounts of psychotherapy.