I find writing short stories more challenging than going for the long haul of writing a novel.
A short story requires you to get in, get out and do it in a way that brings in all of the story elements—plot, character, setting and dialog—without boring the reader. With a novel, you can take your time—but not too much—setting up the igniting spark, storyline, theme, character identities and other story elements.
The length of a short story varies from 1,000-5,000 words or anything or up to 10,000 words, depending on the publication or publishing house doing the defining. Generally, anything less than 1,000 words is considered flash fiction.
Novels are 50,000 words or more, or average 75,000 to 90,000 words.
Because of their length, novels need to sustain readers’ interests over several reading sessions, while a short story can be consumed in one sitting in a few minutes or a couple of hours.
Because of limited space, a short story focuses on a specific time, place, event and interaction. The timeframe typically covers days or weeks, and the setting cannot be in too many places.
Short stories typically begin with a crisis or conflict, getting to the point right away, lacking the time or space for long setups. They have one or a few characters and present a snapshot into the lives of those characters, avoiding long character histories and descriptions.
Also when writing short stories, consider the following:
- Show, don’t tell with the action.
- Use first or third-person, or two characters shifting point of view.
- Express a single theme, or message to get across to the readers.
Essentially, think of a short story as a scene or two that tells an entire story in a quick-to- consume fashion.