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Published October, 1914




03-14-30 Leng

To My Wife

May Miller Cross



The Aim of the Book.- The Short Story is a literary form as distinct as the novel or epic poem and almost as uniformly true to its technical type as the ballade or sonnet. This book is written for the numerous readers who enjoy the best short stories in the magazines, in the hope that it may be an aid to them in getting at the meaning of these stories through an understanding of their construction. One who occasionally reads poetry may get some pleasure from the reading of a poem composed in one of the standard poetic forms without knowing anything about the kinds of lyrics, but the reader who understands the technic of the sonnet or ballade derives an added pleasure from reading poems in these forms when he is aware that the author's meaning, his theme, has been embodied skillfully in an exquisite fixed form. An observer who is acquainted with the details of architecture delights in looking upon a finished structure, beautiful, stately, well adapted to its intended use, in which he recognizes a conformity to the laws of construction, an embodiment of historic lines in the decoration and total effect, and the successful conquest of difficulties in order to accomplish the result in the standard technical requirements of architecture. We all get more or less pleasure out of music; but how much greater is the enjoyment of the trained musician over that of one who merely knows what he likes," as these two listen to Aida, or, better still as an illustration, the Quintet from the Meistersinger of Von Bülow, or Edward MacDowell's Brer Rabbit.

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The technic of the Short Story, as it is written today by the best of its masters, is quite definite in its essential features and yet so flexible in the non-essentials as to give to the careless reader the impression of lawlessness. The purpose of the book, then, to be a little more specific, is to point out those technical features of the Short Story which are generally recognized by the best writers, and to prepare the reader for the variations in form which the flexibility in the non-essential parts admits, and yet to make clear the fact that there is such a thing as The Technic of the Short Story, the understanding of which opens up the possibilities of comprehension and enjoy-. ment just as the perception of the technical elements of other forms of literary art, of architecture, or of music increases the sweep of one's appreciation of an ode, a public building, or a symphony.

In the preparation of this book there has been no effort made to get together a manual for the beginner in the writing of short stories. A number of these already exist. But it is possible that the analysis of the structure of the short story from the reader's point of view may be helpful to the beginner in writing by clarifying his notions about the handling of plot, theme, suspense, and the other elements of technic.

The historical development of this form of art has been touched only superficially. The author's purpose has been to exhibit the story as it is now. We all recognize in these days of exact biological calculation that heredity has much to do with the living youth who flourishes among us; and so, to a certain extent, it is with a literary form. In an attempt to keep the peace with the literary scientists and at the same time to avoid any long delay in getting at the serious business of the book a short paragraph has been devoted to each of the more important branches of the family tree of the Short Story.

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