Short Stories by Big Time Writers

Even the smallest showcase effective structure.

"The Flying Kreisslers", originally appeared in an anthology of short stories by Hollywood screenwriters entitled "Popcorn Fiction." This site no longer exists, but I was fortunate to have a reader send me the text of the short story discussed below. You can read the story here: Resurrecting the Flying Kriesslers (and I would suggest reading it before proceeding--it's great).

I’ve read the first by Scott Frank (Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Minority Report) and instantly loved the pace and voice. From an analysis viewpoint (and as I get ready for another year of teaching story at CalArts), it’s interesting what parts of a complete story survive the transition to a shorter form. A short story can’t be a complete story because, well, it’s short.

In Frank’s The Flying Kreisslers we have the plot progression of the Main Character and the resolution of that throughline. If you haven’t read it yet, go do it. It’s short and it’s awesome and I’m about to spoil it…

Ivan’s throughline seems to be one about manipulation (both the manipulations imposed upon him by his wife and the manipulations he endeavors upon himself). When he finds out about Tonda, he begins to act like his wife’s lover in order to win her back. When he finds out about Geek, he develops a plan to make her jealous by finding a lover for himself. Of course, Ivan’s plans backfire when he fails to seduce Nadia and consequently endures the worst humiliation when his wife seems perfectly at ease with what their marriage is becoming (“she thought his flirtations with Nadia ‘cute’”).

This, of course, leads into the final “act” wherein Ivan finds himself coming up with a most despicable idea: killing his own wife. The circle is complete and Ivan’s short story is over. Wrapping things up we learn that Ivan is at peace with the way things are (“he couldn’t help feeling it was all for the best”).

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