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Stories in the Major Key

I saw a tweet from author Lauren Groff earlier this week that really stuck with me:

Maybe it's the dull winter or the isolation from COVID or a multitude of other things (or a combination of everything) but I've been struggling to find some positive short stories lately. In fact, in the thread that followed Lauren's tweet, some folks were stating they blatantly don't read literary short stories anymore because they all seem to depressing. And. . . I don't disagree. So when I retweeted Lauren with similar thoughts, a few of my writer friends responded, sharing some uplifting stories that are favorites of theirs:

  1. "Chivalry" by Neil Gaiman

  2. "Guy Walks Into a Bar" by Simon Rich

And. Well, that's it. That's the list. But it got me thinking. Another response to my tweet was that genre short stories (SF/F, mystery, YA, romance, etc.) seem to have a wider spectrum (or more keys as Lauren says) of emotions (other than depressing) as compared to literary works. And again, I have to agree. But then I also wonder: why? What is it about literary fiction that makes it so seemingly pigeon-holed into the minor key? Surely there are plenty of real-world examples of conflict that lead to something uplifting or positive without being ooey-gooey saccharine sweet. But when I try to sit down and write something like that, suddenly I have no examples to draw from. Are negative conflicts easier to condense? Do they pack a juicer punch? Is it simply more difficult to write a literary short story with conflict that turns out positive? Are literary authors being lazy?

I'll add to the non-depressing list above with a classic SF story from the beloved Ray Bradbury that I just read: "The Rocket".

Surely there must be more. If you have any suggestions, please send them my way!

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