Flannery O’Connor – Writing Short Stories


In this essay Flannery O’Connor claims that short stories should not have a theme. You should not be able to separate the meaning of a story from the story itself. What you want to say in a story should only be able to be said through the story in as many words. If you can boil down what the story is about in another way, then it’s not a good story.  I like this idea a lot. It reminds me of the fine art idea which my flatmate talks about that, you should do the form that best serves the idea rather than starting with a material and forcing your idea to work in that.

I saw some Best New Zealand Short Films in the NZIFF and they frustrated me because almost none of them should have been short films. Most of them were feature film ideas crammed into a short film form because they didn’t have the resources to make features. Short films should be things that can’t be said in any other way. Short stories should be the same, they shouldn’t be ideas for novels that you can’t be bothered writing. They shouldn’t carry a message than can be explained by an essay or a theme. They should be the only way of saying what you say. I need to keep this in mind for every story I write because I think it’s an important thing to remember.



Eamonn Marra grew up in Christchurch and now lives in Wellington. He is a writer, stand-up comedian and radio producer. In 2016 he completed his MA at the IIML, where he wrote a collection of short stories titled 2000ft. Above Worry Level.