20 Short Stories That Will Make You A Better Writer

Don’t try to write short stories without reading some. Here are 10 modern and 10 classic stories to get you started.

Reading in front of the fire

Chosen by members of the StoryADay Superstars community

  • Perhaps you want to write short stories because novels seem overwhelming.
  • Perhaps you’ve been told that you ought to start with short stories.
  • Perhaps you read a short story you loved and thought “I want to do that!”

The rules for novels and movies don’t apply to short stories. Part of the fun of short story writing is that the form is so flexible.But how would you know that if you’re not reading them?.

Here are 20 great short stories you should read, suggestesd by the StoryADay community.

Each story is either a classic or one that stuck in the reader’s head for years.

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Link information: Some of these links go to places where the stories are freely available online, but if there is no copyright-abiding version available online, I’ve linked to collections which are available at Amazon and these are affiliate links. You may be able to find copies online that are not copyright-compliant.

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Modern Stories

The Zero Meter Diving Team’ by Jim Shepard

I read this story a few years ago and it stuck with me. It’s a slow burn of a story about events I remember but didn’t really know anything about. This made it so real… (Recomended by Julie Duffy)

‘The Butterfly Girl’ by Mary Overton

A short story that touches on three different moments in a life, and helps you inhabit them. (Recommended by Janine Griffin)

Vampires In The Lemon Grove’ by Karen Russell

Karen Russell is a modern master of the short story form and often includes magical realism elements in her stories. This became the title story of her second collection. (Recommended by Michele Reisinger)

Joan of Arc Sits Naked in her Dorm Room’ by Rachel Engleman

This award winning story is a great example of how and why short stories deserve to be read. (Recommended by Michele Reisinger and Julie Duffy)

No More Words’ by Karl Foulk Jr

A 55 word story that shows what can be done in a very short space (Recommended by Jeffrey Lai)

They’re Made of Meat’ by Terry Bisson

A great example of what you can do with only dialogue (recommended by Julie Duffy)

‘Orange’ by Neil Gaiman

Another example of how short stories don’t have to be like mini-novels. This is one side of a police incident-report questionnaire, but you’ll find the story in there!

Bullet In the Brain’ by Tobias Wolff

A story that evokes emotions you might not be expecting. A great example of why you don’t need readers to love your protagonist immediately.

‘More Tomorrow’ by Premee Mohamed

It’s no secret around here that I love an epistolary story and I like a sense of humor. From the title to the journal entries, to the ending, I loved everything about this story. (recommended by Julie Duffy)

When Robot and Crow Saved East St. Louis by Annalee Newitz

Because this was delightful and uplifting (and often short stories, um, aren’t. Especially the classics.). (recommended by Julie Duffy)

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Classic Stories

A Good Man Is Hard To Find’ by Flannery O’Connor

Considered by many to be the perfect short story, it’ll certainly keep you hooked (Recommended by Michele Reisinger and Laurie Porter)

The Open Window’ by Saki (H. H. Munro)

A deceptively quiet little Edwardian tale…(recommended by Julie Duffy)

‘The Hour’ by Kate Chopin

Another classic that is often recommended as a model (recommended by Laurie Porter)

‘The Lottery’ by Shirley Jackson

A dark tale by a master of horror. This tiny story is a master of compression. Hard to read and hard to put down. (recommended by Laurie Porter)

‘Ward 6’ by Anton Chekhov

“I still get goosebumps” (recommended by Neha C)

‘There Will Come Soft Rains’ by Ray Bradbury

Expanded to become part of his Martian Chronicles, this started life as a perfect short story that takes you somewhere different from where you were expecting to go. (recommended by many)

‘Hills Like White Elephants’ by Ernest Hemingway

Another example of a short story that is compact, vivid, and kind of perfect (recommended by many)

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

So many stories from the golden era of short stories seem to be about how terrible life was for women. I wonder why that is? Anyhoo, this is a really good one.

The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield

Another classic, often anthologized story from the golden age of the short story (recommended by Lorna Duffy-Howie. Actually the recommendation was “anything by Mansfield”)

‘A Rose For Emily’ by William Faulkner

A great gothic tale that is nevertheless neatly told (recommended by Julie Duffy)

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Go therefore and read. If you aren’t reading short stories, you’re making it so much harder for yourself to try to write them!

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2 thoughts on “20 Short Stories That Will Make You A Better Writer”

  1. What an amazing list! Being a shorty writer myself, I’m always looking for more inspiration (A Rose for Emily…shudder…). I know I’m late to the party but I’d like to recommend a brilliant story by the late great Ursula Le Guin, Those Who Walk Away From Omelas. It’s from an anthology called Black Water: The Anthology of Fantastic Literature, a brick-sized tome edited by Alberto Manguel. I absolutely cannot recommend this collection enough.

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