The Art of the Short Story

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It’s Thursday, and I am reading one story a week from the book, The Art of the Short Story by Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn. Making sure, basically, that to go with my 52 really bad short stories, I am also reading 52 really good short stories.

The Open Boat ~ Stephen Crane


After last week, I thought I was through with boat/sailing/sea stories. But this one is very different from last week’s. While Joseph Conrad pulled me through various decks and crews of a large sailing ship, Stephen Crane’s little lifeboat with its four passengers is altogether more intimate and, to me, more appealing.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com


Rather than a young captain who is unsure of himself, Crane introduces an injured captain, who, after going down with his ship, retains the respect and goodwill of the crew who are now with him in the small open boat.


And I will be totally honest: Crane’s metaphors and descriptions are writer squad goals. He describes the boat jumping the waves as a horse leaping hurdles. He remarks that men like to bath in spaces bigger than the open boat, and immediately I am drawn into the world of the four men. They battle the waves in a boat so small, it is difficult to see the sky.


I am struck by the difference between last week’s story and this week’s. I finished Conrad’s piece not particularly caring how it ended up for the protagonist. On the other hand, Crane’s characterizations made me really care about the characters and their ultimate fate.