The O. Henry Prize Stories for 2017 have officially been announced. For those who enjoy the art form of the short story, you’re sure to find something you’ll like from this year’s list by clicking here.
“The O. Henry Award is an annual American award given to short stories of exceptional merit. The award is named after the American short story writer, O. Henry. The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories is an annual collection of the year’s twenty best stories published in U.S. and Canadian magazines, written in English.”
Born William Sydney Porter (1862-1910), but better known by his most famous pen name, O. Henry, Porter wrote a boatload of short stories in his day. Among his most well-known works are “The Gift of the Magi” and “The Caballero’s Way.”
While writers like Anton Chekhov and Alice Munro are probably more respected as geniuses of the genre, O. Henry certainly earned his own place in the pantheon of short story authors.
If you want to read some of O. Henry’s goldenest golden nuggets, check out Project Gutenberg, where you can download 19 of his stories for free.
“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
Anton Chekhov, from personal letters
In honor of the great short story writer and my last post on Chekhov’s notion of what it meant to be a cultured person, I thought I’d dedicate this Quote of the Day to a man who wore many hats in his day.
Essentially the opposite concept of a red herring, Chekhov’s gun has become one of the most endearing and well-known dramatic principles for writers. In a Wikipedia-like nutshell, it says that “every element in a story must be necessary, and irrelevant elements should be removed; elements should not appear to make “false promises” by never coming into play.”
The lesson here, folks: Don’t hang a gun up in your house on full display unless you plan on using it relatively soon.
However, I think the bigger point here is that everything has a purpose in life. You know, art mirroring life, right? (Or to quote Oscar Wilde, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life”). Thus, throwing names and objects into a story for gits and shiggles is not only a waste of time (for the reader) and space (on the page), but does not do justice to nature.
Put another way, Chekhov’s principle is like a smoking gun for proponents of destiny, karma and the like. Or, put another way from the previous “another way,” there are no chance events or encounters in life, nothing randomly out of place just ’cause. Everything and everyone is here for a purpose.