The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 4, No. 4

Be Creative

by Francis Coppola

YOU, the reader
PUBLISHER, bearded man of about sixty-one
YOU are in your comfortable living room, YOU are in your bathtub, YOU are on a sardine-packed subway car going to work. YOU are ready for a story, YOU are looking for entertainment, something to transport YOU. YOU clutch the soft newsprint between your fingers. YOU have been here before, in this moment when your shoulders relax and the world around YOU dissolves as a new one emerges with YOU as the reader. But something has changed. Enter the plays. Six new plays. One classic reprint. Incredibly different in content and style from what you expect. YOU are hesitant. Maybe YOU haven't read plays before.

YOU: Whoa! What's this? I thought I signed up for a short-story magazine. Why one-act plays?

PUBLISHER: Are one-act plays not short stories? Do they not count as literature?

YOU: But aren't plays supposed to be seen?

PUBLISHER: Sure, but they are also very enjoyable to read. The first piece of literature I read with great pleasure was A Streetcar Named Desire. I was about fifteen, and was attracted by the cover of the paperback. I had never experienced such a total immersion in a story in text before that. I was moved and enchanted. It made me want to be a playwright instead of a nuclear physicist.

YOU: But plays are meant to be performed.

PUBLISHER: They can be brought to life in your mind almost as easily as onstage. You can read them as short stories, or you can read them imagining the actors on the stage.

YOU: [feeling slighted] I really don't know. I thought I subscribed to a short-story magazine.

PUBLISHER: You subscribed to Zoetrope: All-Story, and the "All" means all kinds of stories, in all sorts of formats. Don't pin us down.

YOU: I paid good money for this subscription. Hard-earned money!

PUBLISHER: You know why God invented money? Being so kind and so considerate, he wanted to make sure he gave something to everyone, even those with little else.

YOU: [Pause, unsure of how to respond] Anyhow, it's tedious, having to read the names of the characters each time a line of dialogue is said.

PUBLISHER: You won't even notice that after you're into the story. The characters will come alive in your mind. Your imagination will be your ally, the best director a play could have, and what will spin out will be memorable--everything will be perfect: the set, the props, the music. Try it!

YOU: Well, how can I do all that? I'm just not a creative person.

PUBLISHER: Everyone is creative. Children know that. Sure, they try to beat it out of you when you grow up. Get you to conform; rate you; give you insecurities about your talent. [Getting a bit exasperated with YOU's hesitation] Go on, read these play--you'll see what a creative person you are.

[The light in your head comes up full to reveal a stage. The plays bring character and life to the personal theater of your mind.]

YOU: Was that crack about God and money meant as an insult?

PUBLISHER: Shhhh. The story is about to begin . . .