Tag Archives: differences

Short Stories versus Novels

I like to consider myself a novelist. That’s what I do. I may have only published one, but that’s what my writing is geared for, writing novels.

I have been trying my hand at writing short stories for my writers’ group, mostly with prompts. I’ve posted a couple of those here on the blog, but I can’t really say I’m proud of them. I’ve been to some open mic events; both locally and out of town and the short stories I have heard a strong finish or a bite to them, a humorous sideline or some deeply thought-provoking revelation amongst the words.

I’ve also read a few anthologies of short stories and most are 2000-3000 words, succinct, concise words.

I can’t do it in less than 5000 words.

I have a short attention span and I like lots of fast action. I write like that also, a whirlwind of events, one on the heels of another.

There are some really great blogs that feature lots of short stories. Kate Loveton has short stories on her blog and does very well at humor and at making relevant points with her work in few words. Helen Midgely writes some of the best short fiction I’ve ever read. I keep encouraging them to write novels. Mark Paxon writes good introspective and meaningful short stories. They always leave me wanting to read more.

That’s what a short story should do.

I researched writing short stories and found the article by Yale University:  http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/curriculum/units/1983/3/83.03.09.x.html

It struck me as a bit too complicated.

So I looked deeper.

I found this list of the five elements of a short story:

They are true masters at combining the five key elements that go into every great short story: charactersetting, conflictplot and theme.


You could say novels are just expanded short stories as the ingredients are much the same, but are they?

My short stories are like little bitty novels.

I found this list of novel features:

  1. Concept – the central idea or proposition from which you create a landscape upon which to tell the story; weak premise, weak story…
  2. Character – checklist-driven criteria for developing backstory, arc, inner conflict and the essence of a hero’s quest…
  3. Theme – the elusive meaning of your story and how it affects readers on multiple levels; in other words, why they’ll care…
  4. Story architecture – a four-part story structure riddled with segments missions, milestones and standards that keep the story growing and moving…
  5. Scene execution – if you can’t boil water you can’t cook up a buffet; this is the crafting of efficient, tense, visceral scenes and narrative…
  6. Writing voice – the assemblage of words you summon as foot soldiers with the mission of carrying your structural strategy to victory.

It would seem that novels are more complex, but that’s not really true. I’m finding writing a short story is harder simply because you are trying to accomplish the same things in fewer words. Maybe I’m overthinking this.

When I approach writing, I tend to do it more by this list of six; except for this statement “if you can’t boil water you can’t cook up a buffet.”

I’m always cooking the buffet.

I feel it requires masterful writing and creativity to pull off a great short story. I applaud people who do it well.

It’s really a whole different style.

I approach writing the same way for short stories and novels. I’ve discovered that my story arc is the same for short stories as it is for novels. You know…you’ve seen this before.


When it should probably look more like this:



So, what do you think?

Is writing short stories different for you than writing novels?

Is it easier or more challenging to write the short story?

I’m finding the short story a greater challenge. I think my lilting use of language and verbosity are parts of what present me problems.

Any advice?