Printed in the anthology of ‘Best British Short Stories’, Ellis Sharp’s story ‘The Writer’ had a lot to prove from the outset. It does not disappoint. Sharp manipulates the reader, scattering description and metaphor in a surreal context, introducing giant slugs, ravens that appear to have a sense of staging and a massive eight-legged creature. The story behaves as if it is a journey through a strange Picasso painting, wandering through strange images that are frequently symbolic or carry contextual baggage.
However, Ellis then rewrites his entire narrative, shattering everything that he has created through his direct address of the reader. The end result is a self-reflective story that question’s its own fantastical narrative as Sharp admits that the story is only remotely based on something real. The reader’s suspension of disbelief is torn down to recognise the story as just that, a story. Sharp demonstrates the power that the writer has over the everyday, to twist it into behaving however they like and the reader’s wish to believe whatever is written, no matter how unbelievable.
The question that the short story asks the reader is: ‘how much reality and how much fantasy do you expect a story to contain?’