What is a Short Story?

how to define a short story

How to define a short story

A project: how to define a short story. More to the point what are the guidelines or boundaries to be thought of as a short story.

You’ll see and hear many different answers to that question. Even from writing teachers. Some teachers think that short stories must fit within a strict set of rules.

Strict rules crush creativity. Don’t worry about the length, just tell your story. Like the stories in this book: The Art of the Short Story

pretty book

This book is both an instructional book and a treasure trove of stories. There are 52 wonderful stories inside that little book. Some are famous, some aren’t but all are really good.

But the book lets us hear what the authors have to say about writing short stories and that’s priceless to me but the book is very low cost. Around 10 bucks last time I went to check.

The plot of a novel usually can’t be told in a short story. Most short stories are under 10,000 words. Imagine trying to write a short story out of your favorite novel. You could write a synopsis that is fairly short probably.

So a short story is an idea or plot that is a poor nominee to be made into a novel. If you are one of the writers who outline your story first you will probably recognize this by the time you finish the outline.

I sat down a year ago to write a short story about a boy who washed up on an island full of Amazon women. It turned into four novels.

If you let the story go where it wants to you can’t always predict if it will be a short story or not. I think of a story I can tell around a campfire as a short story.

If you can tell it in 15 minutes or so and no one falls asleep it might make a great short story. That is very similar to how story writing and telling is described by comedienne Margot Leitman tells it in her book. Some believe her book is all you need to learn to write successful short stories.

Her book Long Story Short has helped many. The reviews of it are fantastic. It’s a no-brainer for what it is we do.

Enjoy your stories. Enjoy writing and telling them.



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