Postmodern Short Stories: Metafiction & Storytelling

These stories contain commentary on writing or storytelling. They might blur the line between fiction and reality. See also:

A Conversation with My Father | Grace Paley

A middle-aged woman talks to her bedridden father about tragedy in fiction and in life.

“A Conversation with My Father” is the second story in the Amazon preview of The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story.

“Circuit City” by J Robert Lennon

The narrator and two coworkers, both named John, suspect that the manager, also named John, is planning to rob the electronics store they work at. They’re having a closing out sale, which John decides to make cash-only. It turns out to be a huge success.

This story can be read in the preview of Tiny Crimes: Very Short Tales of Mystery and Murder(32% in)

A Continuity of Parks | Julio Cortazar

A man relaxes with a novel that he had started earlier. In it a woman and her lover are scheming against her husband. The man reading becomes immersed in the story. (Summary and Analysis)

Read “A Continuity of Parks”

Life-Story | John Barth

A writer thinks about what to do with his current work, questioning the nature of the prose he writes. Perhaps he is a character in one of his stories and his life is fiction.

Happy Endings | Margaret Atwood

In the “A” story, John and Mary meet, fall in love, get married, and live a happy normal life. Their story is told in five more ways, labeled “B” through “F”.

Read “Happy Endings”

A Girl’s Story | David Arnason

A male writer describes the difficulty he has with his latest story. It’s about a beautiful woman sitting on a riverbank. He talks about his struggles with plot, symbolism, and avoiding stereotypes.

The Harvest | Amy Hempel

A woman gets hurt in an accident and relates what happened. She also tells us when she’s exaggerating certain details. Then she goes back and tells us what really happened.

Read “The Harvest”

How to Tell a True War Story | Tim O’Brien

The narrator tells war stories interspersed with commentary on story telling.

Read “How to Tell a True War Story”