Shelley Widhalm

Posts Tagged ‘Short Stories vs. Novels’

Short story challenge

In Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Processes on October 19, 2014 at 11:00 am

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’ interest 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.

See how Zoey the Cute Dachshund approaches short story writing at her blog, zoeyspaw.wordpress.com.

Writing Short Stories Simplified

In 52 Writing Topics, Shelley Widhalm, Writing on September 2, 2012 at 11:00 am

Deciding among the shoes to pack for a trip requires the same approach as does writing short stories.

Take only the essentials and not a pair for every possible season and whimsy.

Writing short stories, like packing shoes, is done in a small space confined to the basic elements of storytelling.

The length of a short story varies depending on the writer, editor or publishing house doing the defining. The definitions I’ve found describe short stories as 1,000-5,000 words or anything up to 7,500 words or up to 10,000 words.

Because there are fewer words, a short story has to be limited to a specific time, place, event and interaction.

Whereas a novel can span a day or a year or more, a short story’s timeframe typically covers days or weeks. The short story cannot include too many places or events without feeling strained or scattered, or like a list.

A novel, because it is larger scale, offers more pages to develop ideas, plot, character and theme. At most, a short story can handle a plot and a small subplot, or a plot and a half.

Short stories get to the point and don’t have the time or space for long setups. They begin with a crisis or conflict right away and avoid describing how the conflict came about.

Stories, as a snapshot into the lives of the characters, avoid long character histories and descriptions. They have a few characters, so that the reader can identify with each character and keep them straight. Too many, and the story can become confusing.

Here are a few other rules about writing short stories (though rules are made to be broken, of course):

* Show, don’t tell with the action.

* Use one or very few settings.

* Use first or third-person, or two characters shifting point of view.

* Express a single theme, or message to get across to the readers.

Novels, which are 50,000 words or more from the definitions I’ve seen, include more material – characters, settings, plots and details – to sustain readers’ interest over several reading sessions, unless they are willing to sit for hours or an entire day. A short story, alternatively, can be consumed in one sitting in a few minutes or a couple of hours.

(Note: Last week, I talked about poetry as I spend a few weeks on different types of writing for my blog, 52: A Year of Writing Basics, Beliefs and Beauty. I won’t cover the types of writing I haven’t tried, like screenplays and plays, but will touch on my favorites, including personal essays, memoirs and news articles.)