Once again it’s the time of year when I say a few words in celebration of Edgar Allan Poe. This January 19th marks the 207th anniversary of Poe’s birth.
Perhaps Poe’s most prominent and lasting impact on American literature is his role as the “pioneer of the short story”. Certainly, short stories were written by others before Poe. However, his published set of guidelines for effective short story writing have been learned, followed and adapted by short fiction writers for over a century and a half.
As Poe endeavored to earn a living through writing alone (a career goal virtually unheard of in his time), his methods of story construction were aligned toward making his stories as palatable and attractive as possible to the general reader. His short story structure accomodates short attention spans and busy schedules. He keeps readers entertained by establishing the story’s mood in the first sentence and faithfully continuing it throughout as well as by purging it of any devices or content that distract from his pre-established conclusion. He makes characters relatable by keeping them in line with natural and expected human behavior and thought patterns. He makes stories memorable through his imaginative and original scenarios.
Poe’s short story structure is a deeply ingrained standard of the genre. Is it any great wonder that his stories endure in popularity even 166 years after his death?
View more articles in celebration of EA Poe’s influence on American literature and culture.