What is true of a good novel is doubly true of a good short story. It all starts with a single question.
- What happens if a genie is released from his lamp by someone who is perfectly content with their life?
- What if you made up a girlfriend to impress your mate in high school and years later, she shows up?
- Why don’t we have hovercars?
Another powerful purpose of the short story is its ability to elaborate on a question unanswered in a larger text.
- What happened when characters X and Y left the main story line (like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Hamlet) but showed up at the end?
- How did that intriguing minor character get themselves into that predicament that the main character got them out of?
- Why is the engaging villain of this story so villainous? Were they born that way or did something preventable happen?
Many of Neil Gaiman’s short stories flesh out characters from greater works and several are just an entertaining answer to an equally intriguing question.
I recommend this book to any fellow writer wishing to lift their game in the short story market and to any reader who can spare twenty minutes to enter a private room in the author’s mind and listen to the tale of an interesting stranger.