If you’re a fiction writer or storyteller of any stripe, I strongly, strongly encourage you to subscribe to the podcast feed for the Public Radio International program Selected Shorts.
Every week, you get one to three short stories read by professional actors (names you know and names you don’t; all excellent.) This is top-flight stuff, here, folks — recent stories have been by authors such as Aimee Bender, James Thurber, Jorge Luis Borges, Philip K. Dick, George Saunders, Alice McDermott, T.C. Boyle, and Anton Chekhov, to name a few.
Now, I know a lot of people who read this blog are more interested in genre rather than so-called “literary” stuff, and Selected Shorts only touches on genre works. Stiil, I urge you to give this a shot. The craft of storytelling is identical whether it’s science fiction or suburbia… in fact, I will step out on a not-very-high ledge and say that a lot of genre writers could learn a thing or two about what makes a good story. No, of course I’m not talking to you!
See, the point here is not just to listen to some of the finest short-form literature available… the point is, as a writer, to learn by immersion. Soak this stuff up. Enjoy the stories on an emotional level, as entertainment, sure… but also take the opportunity to analyze what you hear. I find that hearing a short story enables me to better pick out those key “ah, so that’s how they did that” moments.
Give Selected Shorts a try. Subscribe in iTunes or in the podcast client of your choice. Selected Shorts is also, naturally, carried on a number of public radio stations in the United States. Find an NPR station local to you.