The options are endless when it comes to the creativity used in short stories. Each has a different theme, a different plot and many have a different writing style. This is a compilation of eight of the best short stories in the 21st century, so far.
"The Things They Left Behind" - Stephen King
Survivor's guilt plagues Scott Staley, who escaped harm from the attacks on the World Trade Center by taking vacation that agonizing day. His colleagues' belongings suddenly start appearing in his apartment leading to deepening guilt for Scott. He tries throwing them away, but they come back. This story leads the reader to see that erasing guilt frees the heart.
"The Best Christmas Ever" James Patrick Kelly
Albert Hopkins is the last person left on earth, being taken care of by animal biops. He is granted his every wish, but becomes lonely and depressed so the animals plan him a Christmas party. This story dives into our fantasy mind with a theme of realizing you don't know what you have until you lose it.
"PS" - Jill McCorkle
Hannah is penning a letter to her marriage counselor blaming him for the loss of her marriage. Hannah's husband has become an evangelical Christian and tells her repeatedly she needs to repent. Dark, yet comical, the story brings light to our tragedies.
“Ceiling” - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
"Ceiling" yearns for a life different than his own. His perfect life is a facade as he realizes his love for his college sweetheart. The underlying theme is about settling against one's own true happiness. The story also begs the question, is the life he yearns for truly "perfect" or does he already have it all?
"ID" - Joyce Carol Oates
A young girl, Lisette, is neglected by her parents. Her father abused her leading to eye surgery and her mother is missing. She is falling apart inside and outside. The story winds its way through Lisette's stream of consciousness and her ability to fight back in a world seemingly completely against her.
"Hurricanes Anonymous" - Adam Johnson
Randall and his son, Geronimo, are trying to put their lives back together after Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane not only took parts of their physical lives away, but left them hopelessly reaching for the love of the ones that abandoned them. Surviving your own nightmares and walking through the mud is shown throughout this story.
"The Heifer" - Melissa Hardy
Aina has come to Ontario during the 19th century gold rush. She receives a heifer as a wedding gift and must lead it across a frozen river in the middle of winter. Realizing she might have been wrong to follow this dream, she begins to hate her own decisions. The underlying theme asks whether the dreams you choose might lead to disaster.
“Along the Frontage Road” - Michael Chabon
Young Nicky and his father are going to pick out a pumpkin for Halloween. During this trip, Nicky's father begins to recall his own childhood with his own father. We follow the simple adventure of picking out a pumpkin and the complex adventure of the narrator's own tormented heart.
Who knows how many of these writers have master’s degrees, in anything. But a creative writing masters degree can help you find out the accuracy  of the choices above. A serious focus on the art of creative writing can also lead to a non-academic life in academia, whether directly in writing or feeding your bibliophilia. The point is that your talent may often take years to develop; even just living your life can add to the depth of your own fiction.