How Short Is A Short Story?

By on August 20, 2020

Short story writing can be excellent for those writers who want to try something a little different. Also, those who want to take a break from their novels haven't written for a long time and want to get back in the game. Practicing short story writing can help writers sharpen their skills and get back into the swing of things once more. 

Short stories are satisfying to write, particularly for writers who don't have much time on their hands as they can be completed in a much shorter time than a full-length novel, yet still require many of the same storytelling skills. 

If you are a writer looking to practice your skills (and we all should be), taking up short stories can be a fantastic way to learn how to develop characters, how to weave an exciting and engaging plot, and how to create unusual settings that draw the reader in.

A short story will have a cast of characters, a theme, and a beginning, middle, and an end. Even though a short story is a much smaller container, it is expected that readers would be able to enjoy a proper character and story arc. Readers should also be able to immerse fully in the fictional world through the writer's skillful use of strong imagery and arresting word choice. 

All successful stories have similar elements - these being:

Character

Setting

Plot

Conflict

Resolution

Without these elements, a story can become confused and feel incomplete. 

How short should a short story be?

The short story comes in many different forms, while we might typically think of the standard short stories, there are also flash fictions and microfictions that fall under this bracket which are a lot shorter. Conversely, there are also more extended versions of the short story, such as the novella and the novelette, which aren't long enough to be considered novels but are significantly longer than a typical short story would be. 

Let's break down each and look at typical lengths of them:

Novella

A novella can be anything from 15,000, and 50,000 words, so is quite a range. 

Some famous novellas include Breakfast at Tiffany's, A Christmas Carol, and Of Mice and Men.

The novellette

This is shorter and classed as any work of fiction between 7,000 and 15,000 words.

Surprisingly The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - a hugely famous story is classed as a novella being only 13,500 words.

Short story

A typical short story is any work of fiction under 10,000 words. However, a short story could also be much less than this, at around 1,000 words.

Some famous short stories include:

The Tell-Tale Heart  The Yellow Wallpaper and The Lottery.

Flash fiction

Works of flash fiction are stories with a length of between 300 and 1,000 words.

Microfiction

A microfiction is a story simply made up of a few sentences and typically wouldn't go over 100 words. 

All these types of shorter fiction come with their own set of unique challenges and make for excellent writing practice for any writer. 

So if you want to experiment with your writing, why not give them a go?

bethany cadman
Bethany Cadman - bethanycadmancreates.com

About Beth Cadman

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