Three stories for autumn

If you’re looking for some reading to inspire your own writing this autumn, you might like to consider some of these stories:

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

Read an excerpt here.

This is a metafictional novel – a story about stories. The narrator is reminiscent of a Brontë heroine, there are references to 18th and 19th century Gothic novels, and there’s a nice little intertextual link to Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’. The novel is even partly set near Brontë country.

Like the protagonists in her favourite novels, our narrator is isolated, seeking solace in books, inspired by stories and desolate places. A surprise letter from a famous author forces her to leave her quiet life, and embark on an adventure, in order to solve a mystery.

The book begins in mid-autumn, and progresses into winter and beyond. It’s spooky and atmospheric. Reading it may inspire you to feel the beauty and mystery of the changing seasons, to read some of the novels it mentions, or to write your own Gothic mystery.

Northern Lights, by Philip Pullman (Vol. 1 of His Dark Materials)

Read an excerpt here. (Note: the novel was published in the US as ‘The Golden Compass’).

This is part one of a trilogy. If it’s going to be a long autumn in your part of the world, with cold rainy days and possible lockdowns in the run up to/during winter, you definitely need something you can get your teeth into. After you’ve enjoyed these three books, you may even wish to begin Pullman’s linked ‘The Book of Dust’ trilogy.

Pullman’s fantasy trilogy is set across several incredible worlds – his world building is amazing, whether you aspire to write fantasy or not – and contains an array of intertextual links and allusions, from places to religion to folklore – the amount of research Pullman must have carried out is mindboggling. The books feature many memorable characters; I fell in love with feisty Lyra and sweet Pantalaimon, the ferocious and noble Armoured Bears, and adventurer Lee Scoresby.

Reading just one book in the trilogy will take you on an epic journey, and an emotional one at that – I vividly recall crying on a train as I read the second book. Well before you finish, you’ll be wondering What would my dæmon be?

The Open Window, by Saki

You can read it here, in about 5 minutes.

This is a nice short story for the run up to Halloween – spooky, with a twist in the tale.

It’s a great example of short story writing, with all of the elements featuring in so few words: characters, dialogue, conflict, a story arc… It’s no surprise this story, and others by Saki, feature in many classic short story anthologies.

My own reading list

This autumn, it’s all about short stories for me. I’ll be reading lots of spooky tales from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Edgar Allan Poe. I’ll also be continuing with some short story adaptations including the anthologies ‘My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me’, edited by Kate Bernheimer, and ‘Cursed’, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane.

What will you be reading?

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