One of the things I love about short stories is the way they can play with form. They are, at their best, unpredictable. “Orange” by Neil Gaiman (which I found in the Best American Non-Required Reading 2011 anthology) is a perfect illustration.
Written in the form of answers to a police interrogation, the story never actually tells you what those questions were, leaving you to both speculate and laugh out loud at times. It unfolds gradually from the shallow answers given by a teenaged girl about her less-than-perfect homelife, to something much more complex and true. And funny and touching and hopeful and sad.
That the protagonist is answering a interrogation tells you immediately that something has gone wrong and you read in part to find out what. But after a while, as I often find with Neil Gaiman’s writing, you are reading just for the sheer joy of it. His use of language and character are masterful, engaging and accessible.
After reading this story, I immediately called over my precocious nine-year old son and read it again, over his shoulder. Upon finishing, he flipped back to the start to read it again too. It’s like that.
Highly recommended if you feel you’re getting into a rut with your short story writing and need some inspiration for a shake up. Or if you just want to read a fine, well-written short story.