I did a “Rejoice Re-Read” of some favourite Munro this weekend, in honour of her amazing Nobel Prize for Literature win. I was struck once again how much a non-fiction feature writer can learn from Canada’s short story master. Here are the three top lessons I took away. There are at least 1000 more.
1. Brevity is best. Even Munro’s form, a short story, challenges the writer to containment and discipline. The Toronto Star quoted Munro as saying she “eliminates” and that if anything seems to be “decoration,” it’s cut.
2. Small town is a big universe. Munro’s storytelling focus on mostly women in mostly small towns reminds me again and again that almost every story is in every person, every where.
3. You can say a lot in a very few words. In the title story of Friend of my Youth, Munro describes Flora, her lead character, riding into town standing on the back of a wagon, holding on to sacks of wool. “She rode to town and back standing up, keeping an easy balance, wearing her black hat. Almost ridiculous but not quite.” Beautiful.