Playing favorites

Playing favorites

the cover of the story collection Chambers of the Heart - a cutaway biological heart whose chambers are filled with halls, stairways, and furniture. The heart is on a textured maroon background
Chambers of the Heart

I have favorites among my own stories. Some, frankly, are just better than others — in my view. Other readers disagree strongly, and I sometimes find that the stories I thought were strongest aren’t the ones people fix on.

Recently, I needed to choose one of my stories to include in an anthology, and I thought that, along with my own preferences, I would include some empirical data.

My latest story collection, Chambers of the Heart, got very positive reviews from quite a few people, and it included stories I think are among my best, so that seemed a good place to start. I took a quick look through reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, and a few other places (trying to avoid double counting, and did a quick and dirty count of which stories in the collection had been mentioned in reviews as particular favorites.

Interestingly, out of sixteen stories, ranging from 200 to 8,000 words, all but three were mentioned at least once. The stories left out include one that was among my favorites, one that I liked and that got a good response when published, and one that I thought was awkward. The ‘winners’ — the stories that got the most mentions — didn’t include my own favorites.

An interesting exercise, though in no way helpful to my selection decision. Overall, it just reaffirmed my own preference for writing what I like and hoping others feel the same, rather than trying to write to a particular audience or style. (But I admit I’d have done that anyway.)