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August 20, 2012 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Do you have any short story recommendations? Difficulty level: In the public domain.

These answers are great but I am looking exclusively for short stories that you can recommend and that are works in the public domain.

I want to make a short film adaptation of a short story, and it seems best to proceed where there are no copyright issues.
posted by tooloudinhere to Writing & Language (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
James Joyce slipped into PD, but the historical costume/location aspects might be tough to pull off, if you don't have the budget. Some F Scott Fitzgerald stories are out off copyright, as are those on this list, some of which might work updated to contemporary times.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:37 AM on August 20, 2012

One of the all-time classics is in the public domain: O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief".
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:41 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Project Gutenberg has a list of short story collections.
posted by rtha at 8:42 AM on August 20, 2012

The Overcoat (1842) by Nikolai Gogol is considered by some to be one of the greatest short stories ever written.
posted by TheOtherGuy at 8:48 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why not use the master's work?
posted by Algebra at 8:48 AM on August 20, 2012

Are you a film student or otherwise nonprofessional/aspiring? You could always apply to adapt one of Stephen King's available short stories for $1, under his Dollar Baby program (the agreement apparently states that "so long as the film rights are still [SK's] to assign" and that "no resulting film will be exhibited commercially without approval"). Not all of the available stories are horror, either--the list also includes other styles, like "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away" or "The Last Rung On the Ladder".
posted by theatro at 8:54 AM on August 20, 2012

Edgar Allen Poe!
posted by pointystick at 9:16 AM on August 20, 2012

The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 9:17 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Or, alternately, Bliss, by same.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 9:18 AM on August 20, 2012

I enjoyed some of Kate Chopin's short stories in college. There are some here published with her novel The Awakening.
posted by stampsgal at 9:24 AM on August 20, 2012

Guy de Maupassant's "The Horla."
posted by infinitewindow at 9:27 AM on August 20, 2012

Stephen King makes several of his short stories available for adaptation to student filmmakers for the princely sum of one dollar: Dollar Babies.
posted by Eldritch at 9:55 AM on August 20, 2012

even more chekhov stories:
posted by guybrush_threepwood at 10:45 AM on August 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Adapt! All! The! Saki!
posted by the latin mouse at 10:48 AM on August 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

It might be fun to adapt one of the stories by Frank Richard Stockton.
posted by Quonab at 11:03 AM on August 20, 2012

What kind of film do you want to create? Horror, romance, adventure, crazy existentialism? That'd help narrow it down.

Dover has very cheap Thrift Editions of public domain works--all probably available online for free, but this helps narrow it down.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:51 AM on August 20, 2012

I'd watch a film about Soapy trying (and failing) to get himself thrown into an NYC jail before winter arrives.

[O. Henry: "The Cop and the Anthem"]
posted by notyou at 1:32 PM on August 20, 2012

Much of Ambrose Bierce's short work would be suitable for this. Also Guy Du Maupassant. They both published a lot of short stories.
posted by smoke at 4:24 PM on August 20, 2012

Kipling's "The Man Who Would Be King," and the stories from "Plain Tales from the Hills," might work for this.

If you haven't read any Kipling since you were a kid (or not ever) be warned that he was A Man Of His Era when it comes to race, and since he wrote a lot about colonial India, the racial weirdness is really up-front and visible in a way that it isn't necessarily for other authors of that era. Still, he wrote damn good stories, and in many of them the racism can either be edited out -- or, more fun for you, "problematized" the way you do now when you're staging The Merchant Of Venice.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:20 PM on August 20, 2012

Young Goodman Brown, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
posted by LonnieK at 5:36 PM on August 20, 2012

"My Military Campaign" and "The Private History of a Campaign That Failed," by Mark Twain, are aching to be made (and if you can convince some local Civil War reenactors to loan you gear in return for screen credit, can be made well on the cheap). Ambrose Bierce also wrote some great military short stories. has some great audiobooks of short stories from the public domain (all from Project Gutenberg). Some of the writers I've been turned on to by those collections are Ellis Parker Butler, who wrote comic mystery stories about a wallpaperer/detective and others, Anna Katharine Green, who wrote mysteries with a legal slant, and R. Austin Freeman, whose medical detective Dr. Thorndyke is Holmesian but with a twist.

E.F. Benson wrote short stories that are comedies of manners a la Saki, and ghost stories that are quite chilling. I believe all of his fiction is now in the public domain. Edna Ferber wrote lots of short stories about urban life in the US, ranging from comic to poignant; many are in the public domain and on Project Gutenberg. F. Scott Fitzgerald has a number of short stories in the public domain that would make good short films if you can manage the costumes and decor.

Kate Chopin's short stories might be worth a look, as might Katherine Mansfield's. Chekhov's short stories are a treasure chest.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:57 PM on August 20, 2012

I would love to see a film adaptation—period, or modernized—of Fantomina by Eliza Haywood.
posted by Orinda at 7:07 PM on August 20, 2012

"Turned" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (better known for "The Yellow Wallpaper") is another good one. I can't find a text online.
posted by Orinda at 7:11 PM on August 20, 2012
posted by jingzuo at 11:52 PM on August 20, 2012

"The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane; "To Build a Fire" and others by Jack London; "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving. And seconding "The Garden-Party" or anything by Katherine Mansfield!
posted by désoeuvrée at 12:51 AM on August 21, 2012

re désoeuvrée ...
To Build a Fire -- wow. I can see it. You'd have to portray some existential thoughts of a character not equipped for philosophy. I'd use the dog for some of that. An inventive filmmaker might do it. Good luck!
posted by LonnieK at 6:45 PM on August 21, 2012

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