“I’ll give you the whole secret to short story writing. Here it is. Rule 1: Write stories that please yourself. There is no Rule 2.”
― O. Henry
William Sidney Porter better known by his pen name “O Henry” was an American short story writer. He was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. His short stories combine delightful wit and shocking twists. His trademark has to be the often surprising and unexpected way in which he ends his stories. We have had a chance to savor his words with “The Last Leaf” which was also made into the critically-acclaimed Bollywood movie “Lootera”.
“There are stories in everything. I’ve got some of my best yarns from park benches, lampposts, and newspaper stands.”
― O. Henry
Some of his most popular works are:
“The Gift of the Magi”
“The Ransom of Red Chief”
“The Cop and the Anthem”
“A Retrieved Reformation”
“The Duplicity of Hargraves”
“The Caballero’s Way”.
He married Athol Estes on July 1, 1887.His job as a teller at the First National Bank of Austin inspired him to develop various characters that he used in his short stories. Porter was charged with embezzlement of funds and sentenced to five years in prison and imprisoned at the Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio and during his imprisonment, he had fourteen stories published under various pseudonyms but was becoming better known as “O. Henry”. Porter was released after serving three years on account of his good behavior.
“Life is full of sniffles sobs and smiles. With sniffles predominating.”
― O. Henry, The Gift of the Magi
Porter named his second collection of stories “Four Million”. This is a reference to Ward McAllister’s assertion that there were only ‘Four Hundred’ people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man had arisen—the census taker—and his larger estimate of human interest was in marking out the field of these little stories of the ‘Four Million’. Porter’s love for New York can be seen in his works, most of which are based in the city or “Bagdad-on-the-Subway,” as he calls it. Most of his characters are also often simple citizens like clerks, artists, waitresses, policemen, etc.
“I wanted to paint a picture some day that people would stand before and forget that it was made of paint. I wanted it to creep into them like a bar of music and mushroom there like a soft bullet.”
― O. Henry, The Complete Works of O. Henry