Short Story Month 2017—Part 8: Short Story Writers on Mystery in the Story
Joy Williams: “A writer loves the dark, loves it, but is always fumbling around in the dark. The writer doesn’t want to disclose or instruct of advocate, he wants to transmute and disturb. He cherishes the mystery…. he wants to escape his time, the obligations of his time, and, by writing, transcend them.”
Flannery O’Connor: "The particular problem of the short story writer is how to make the action he describes reveal as much of the mystery of existence as possible...The type of mind that can understand [the short story] is the kind that is willing to have its sense of mystery deepened by contact with reality, and its sense of reality deepened by contact with mystery."
Flannery O’Connor: “The short story is] a form in which the writer makes alive some experience which we are not accustomed to observe everyday, or which the ordinary man may never experience in his ordinary life.... Their fictional qualities lean away from typical social patterns, toward mystery and the unexpected."
Catherine Brady: “Every good story has to risk being obscure, aimless, about nothing if it is to sustain that ‘something wild’ not within reach, not enclosed in the story because it cannot be named or identified in any single passage.”
Alice Munro:” I write because I want to get a feeling of mystery or surprise. Not a mystery that finishes you off, but something that makes the character or reader wonder. I don’t really like interpretations. I don’t want to make definite explanations.”
Amy Hempel: “I don’t like having anything spelled out. Of course, mystery is not vagueness. Mystery is controlled. It involves information meted out only as needed. I not only don’t want the explanation, I want the mystery.”
Eudora Welty: "The first thing we notice about our story is that we can't really see the solid outlines of it--it seems bathed in something of its own. It is wrapped in an atmosphere. This is what makes it shine, perhaps, as well as what initially obscures its plain, real shape.”