Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What Makes a Good Short Story?

It used to be that we read good stories in literature textbooks, stories selected for their literary merit, but today the stories are banal and uninspiring. That is because they are not chosen for literary merit as much as for their political correctness, as it is judged by political pressure groups of all kinds. The mediocre quality of literature textbooks in America is due to the adoption process used in over 20 states, including Texas, Florida and California, which purchase enormous qualities of textbooks. The books are selected by statewide committees rather than by the teachers, who must then try to teach good writing using inferior examples. It is a sad state of affairs that speaks once again of how children really are not the main concern of American public education.

Some of the stories students read in their literature texts receive a more favorable response than others. Contrary to the prevalent view, the stories they like best are the ones that open before them experiences and worlds that they have never imagined. Students really don't care about characters who are like them, or who resemble people they know in school. This is one of the reasons they keep returning to classics like Dune, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia. They want to read about worlds where young people are challenged, where they can be heroes, and where dangers and challenges bring strength and character.

What makes a story good? Well, it should entertain and it should have memorable characters. But most importantly, it should have a positive impact on the character of the reader.

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