Short Stories

Hi SEers! Denise here with a post about something I’ve been enjoying lately, short stories.

When I get an idea in the middle of the night or the shower, I write it down. It can be the first paragraph and then the direction I see it going. Usually, it ends up becoming a book, but not always. Sometimes, I have a short story to write.

short sto·ry

/SHôrt ˈstôrē/

noun

  1. a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

—-Definitions from Oxford Languages

How long is a short story?

These word counts can vary. You need to check guidelines for any site or publisher where you submit work.

Novel: 40,000 words and up, but it is more common for novels to be over 50,000

Novella: 20,000-39,999 words

Novelette: 7500-19,999 words

Short story: 1000-7499 words

Flash fiction: 100-1000 words

Micro-fiction: Under 100 words, but could be up to 300 words.

A short story may have a smaller word count than a novel, novella, or novelette. Yet, it still needs great characters, a compelling plot, conflict, a theme weaved in, and where and when it’s set, just like a full-length novel.

In a limited format, short stories are usually told and resolved in a single scene. I like to think of a short story as a TV show where everything is settled in a half hour. There is less time to commit to, and I’ve enjoyed some excellent entertainment.

Compare that to a movie where it requires more time to watch, which is much like a novel. Both are satisfying in their own ways.

Short stories have become immensely popular in our busy society. People like the option of being able to read a complete story in one sitting—instant gratification.

But what does a short story offer a writer?

  1. It’s less of a commitment and allows other work to continue.
  2. The story can be an offshoot of a past or current story. It offers a chance to explore a secondary character with a side story. New insight may lead to another book.
  3. This is my favorite reason, a place to experiment. Try to write in the first person if you only write in the third. Explore a different genre you’ve always wanted to try. Dramatic writer? Try comedy. Fantasy writer? How about trying some historical fiction? A news article piqued your curiosity, but it doesn’t fit into what you’ve written before. Here you can explore that what-if.
  4. Like writing poetry, a short story writer has to be concise with the word usage. It is a place to say more with less, and a useful skill to incorporate into full-length novels.
  5. Readers are more willing to buy a short story from a new author instead of committing to a longer read.

Explore the all possibilities that a shorter word count offers. It inspired me to write about Bigfoot after I read a newspaper article about poisoning a lake to kill predatory fish. Watching an Alfred Hitchcock movie prompted me to explore what happens when no one believes you. A plate of bread left in the middle of the night by a stranger produced another short story.

These single ideas were perfect for this word count.

What ideas do you have that haven’t worked out in a novel? Is there a style of writing you’ve always wanted to try? A minor novel character keeps nudging you or something strange happened to you?

Short stories are the perfect avenue to explore those curiosities.

81 thoughts on “Short Stories

  1. Yes, these points about short story writing are great, Denise. I used to pooh pooh reading or writing short stories (several decades back). 🙂 Not anymore. Now I enjoy a well-written short story – it takes a lot of skill to keep the reader’s interest, fill out a character and a plot, all in 1,000 to 7,000 words. I actually enjoy flash fiction even more. Thanks for the informative post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pamela:) They have really caught my attention over the last couple of years. I want to do more flash fiction. That really takes a special skill and I always enjoy yours:)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Denise. I appreciated the breakdown on page counts between the various story styles. Like you, I do enjoy reading short stories. I like being able to take in a whole story in one sitting when time is short, then having the next one to look forward too. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I love both writing and reading short stories. I’ve put out two collections and, even though their not exactly best sellers, it is work that I am the most proud of. It’s a great format for telling a meaningful story without all of the baggage that goes along with a novel. It’s also a great way to cleanse the writing palate. Sharing over on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Short stories don’t carry the novel baggage, I agree. I like they cleanse the writing palate, they really do. I love short story collections, and find them very memorable. I haven’t put out a collection yet but have a couple of short stories out there. Thanks, Don:)

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the idea of writing things down when they occur to you. I used to think, “Oh, I’ll remember this.” Later, when I try to remember what seemed like such a great idea at the time, it’s nowhere to be found in the old memory bank. Denise makes a compelling argument to try something new with short stories. That seems far more logical than getting crazy with a novel unless one has experimented before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I absolutely have to write my ideas down when I get them, Pete, or they are gone later. Yes, it is a safe place to experiment with new characters, genres, or formats over novels. Happy experimenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Short Stories Post on Story Empire! @StoryEmpire #storyempire #indieauthor #shortstories #authoradvice #writinginformation #writingcommunity – Author D.L. Finn

  6. Excellent subject, Denise. I used to write a lot of flash fiction. It’s a great way to test a new character or play with an odd POV, like 2nd POV. Haven’t written flash fiction or a short story in a while, but you’ve inspired me. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sue. I like your idea to test new characters or try different POVs. I’ve just started doing more flash fiction and found I enjoy it too. It really takes a single focus on a story and a careful choice of each word used then a short story. I’m glad you were inspired, and so I am to write flash fiction now:)

      Liked by 1 person

  7. This is an excellent post, Denise. I’ve written micro-fiction for many years, and flash fiction for a couple of years. I like to do research and read different issues and have different folders for them. I must look at some and write some short stories ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Miriam:) I’ve enjoyed your micro and flash fiction! I never thought of saving it in different folders to reference later. Great idea! I do hope you write some short stories. I look forward to reading them 🙂

      Like

      • Yes, Denise. I have different folders for poetry, flash fiction and other writing in case I want to group them into books. I have some stories with each in many years of span. It seems a huge effort to flush out certain parts to write books out of them. I’ll keep thinking. ☺️

        Like

  8. I love the satisfaction behind short stories, because they can be completed so much faster (which makes me sound impatient or lazy, which could be true I suppose). I also love the concept of exploring small and unique avenues, which might not possess the bulk of a novel, but whose tale can still be told in more compact form

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think its lazy or impatient, Tom, in writing or reading the short stories 🙂 It takes a certain skill to tell a story in fewer words.

      There is a special satisfaction in in a full story being presented to be read in a single reading.

      I agree, it is a wonderful way to explore those unique avenues that need to be told in their own way!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post, Denise. I love the challenge that writing short stories hand us, and have published two collections of shorts. One of these was a collection of paranormal shorts, I had long wanted to explore that genre, and the short story format was the perfect opportunity. I love the instant gratification of reading the format as well. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am a huge fan of short stories (both as a reader and writer). You make some great points here, Denise, about the structure of a short being the same as a novel. It has to have a beginning, middle, and end. One of the many things I love about writing short stories is the opportunity to explore writing in different genres. Thank you so much for sharing! Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m a big fan of writing and reading them. You have written some amazing short stories. It is a fun place to test out those genres for sure. Thank you, Jan 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Judi 🙂 I love being able to read a short story in one reading, otherwise, I tend to keep reading way past my bedtime. I always forget the novelette and novella lengths too, and have to look them up.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I have always loved short stories, so when I began to write it seemed only natural. My stories usually came to a natural conclusion sooner rather than later.
    There is an art to the short story. Developing scenes and characters need to be done quickly and concisely, often through the dialogue or internal thoughts. Sometimes it ends with a twist or it can leave the reader pondering the message or to make their own conclusion.
    That being said, one of my short stories spawned my newest project, a sequel which is now at novella length and climbing. Maybe writing short stories is like training for a marathon – you need to build up stamina.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right, Leon. There is definitely an art to writing short stories. Using dialog, internal thoughts, scenes, characters in a concise manner to get the story across in fewer words is a challenge. I’m a fan of the twist at the end or to be left pondering on a message.

      That’s wonderful one of your short stories has grown into a longer story, or novella length. My stories decide for me what length they are going to be.

      I like your comparison to running a marathon and writing. We all have own own routines to get to the race, but we are all headed for that finish line running at our own pace.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I just finished reading a collection of short stories, the third in the last few weeks. I love the short form, both as reader and writer. I’ve been sitting on a collection of short stories for two years trying to decide if I want to indie publish them or submit them to magazines. In the interim, I have several ideas pinging around my head that I would like to turn into shorts.
    Great post today, Denise!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I really enjoy short story collections, Mae. I’m glad it’s become so popular and there is a lot of good choices out there to read. I have a collection too, and have wondered the same thing about a collection or trying to submit to online magazines, or both. It’s also a nice option to be able to release them as a single short story too.

      I know as a reader I’d love to read a short story collection of yours, but I also loved when you released your fantastic shory story, In Search of McDoogal by itself. Thanks, Mae 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Craig. I agree Amazon saved the short story. At least there is still some online magazines that use short stories, and I think big publishing is behind in what the readers want. I have always enjoyed reading and now writing them too.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Ever wanted to write a short story, but had no idea where to begin? Denise Finn has some wonderful thoughts on this subject in her post today on Story Empire. Maybe her tips will help you get started. Hope you’ll stop by to check it out, and will then pass it along so others can consider the idea, too. Thanks, and thanks to Denise for such a great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. There used to be a fun TV show called “Short Attention Span Theater,” where they’d run old movies, and three “talking silhouettes” in the first row of the darkened theater would make hilarious comments. Since then, I’ve realized we really are living in a short attention span world, even if a lot of it isn’t our fault. We all have so many things vying for our time, having an option to read a short story or two is always great. I’ve loved anthologies all my life, and have entire bookshelves filled with them. (And plenty on my Kindle, too.) But so far, I haven’t written anything that remotely resembles one. Or even resembles a short novel. 😯 Yep. I’m wordy. (I do try to make them interesting words and hope I’m getting better about paring back some of the unnecessary stuff, but that’s a different task.)

    I really like the idea of writing short stories about various secondary characters in my books, and thought that was what I was going to do with my current WIP, but before I could settle into that groove, it began to expand, and is now almost certain to become the 4th Riverbend novel. I do enjoy writing poetry, but other than that, I’m beginning to think I’m missing the short story gene in my make-up. Still, I love this post, and all your good points, so I’m not totally giving up on the idea yet. 😀 Thanks, Denise! Sharing this!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thanks, Marcia 🙂 I’m going to have to find this show “Short Attention Span.” It sounds like a lot of fun. We are definitely living in a world where there is so much information available and less time to get to it all. Short stories are a good fit for that, but I still love a nice long story too.

      I think a story knows what it needs, or that’s how it works for me. I couldn’t force a novel out of a short story or the other way around. I’m sure when that short story wants to be written it will show up for you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I will keep an eye open for one showing up, Denise. 😀 I’d enjoy that! It was a great change of pace to write 3 novellas, but then, the “heroes” weren’t really part of any other series, other than the briefest of intros under an assumed name for Jake. I found trying to use one of my main Riverbend characters in a short story was just making me want to add everything going on with the rest of the gang, too. It became obvious it was turning into a novel right in front of my eyes. 😀 But I’m not giving up on the idea yet. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    • I am more of a mid range writer. Probably two to four hurdles my main character goes through and then ending the story in one quick swoop.

      My boyfriend tells me that times are changing, and we have to adjust. My stubborn butt still think I can birth a novel and 2/3rds of the world will soak it in like their favorite social media post and/video.

      Hell, I even started illustrating art to accompany the work I write. Blaaaah I am too old fashioned because of the books I enjoy and want to keep them that way when I write, but I know some flexibility is needed to diversify my audience.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I usually prefer long novels that I can lose myself in, but I have come across some great short stories in the past couple of years, so I’m starting to enjoy them more. I wrote my first published short story last year and will probably write another one this year. Great post, Denise! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t think short stories will replace that long novel to get lost in, Yvette, but such a wonderful option when you want the whole story in one sitting. Your short story had a amanzing twist and I’m excited to hear another short story might be in the works! Thanks, Yvette 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love reading short stories, and I’m glad the trend has arrived, although I still enjoy reading a full-length novel. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing and publishing a collection of short stories for some time. Some I have drafted, others are in the planning stage. They are different genres and at least one is in first person.

    I do have one short story that will soon publish as a prequel to my new series.

    Great post, Denise.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad the trend has arrived for shirt stories too. They are perfect for afternoon reading, or when I want a whole story, but don’t want to stay up all night. Like you, I still love to get lost in a novel as well. I like having a choice.

      Nice to hear you have a collection started. I like writing them in first person puts you right in the story for some short stories. I’m thinking about trying first person present, if it doesn’t confuse me writing it.

      What a good idea to release a short that’s a prequel to your new series. I’ll be watching for it!

      Thanks, Joan 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jill. That’s a good idea to step away from a WIP your stuck on and write a short story. I do that with poetry, but might try a short instead next time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is such a fun way to experiment! Then it teaches the careful use of words to apply to longer writing. I try to think of eacch chapter in my novels as a short story so the length doesnt overwhelm me. Thanks, Staci 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Short Stories | Legends of Windemere

  18. A great breakdown of the differences in length and a nice reminder that any story needs the same elements of start, middle, and end. Like you, point number 3 is my favourite reason too. I used the short-story format to write a novel with a timeline running backward. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try that with a whole novel … I could see myself entangled, lols.

    Reblogged this on: https://harmonykent.co.uk/short-stories-story-empire/

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Harmony:) Yes, a short story has all the same elements as a novel which makes it a challenge and exciting to write. I like the idea of incorporating a short story format for a timeline. It might get confusing to try it the whole novel but also might be kind of fun too.

      Like

  19. Pingback: Short Stories | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  20. Thank you for the great post, Denise. Like you, I think the popularity of short stories or novelettes is time. Through social media, we’ve grown accustomed to instant news and updates. I’m currently writing a full-length novel, but I’m drawn to reading shorter creations. They are fast and perfect for an evening read. Funny isn’t it, I write one style but often read another. Once I finish this book, I’m moving to shorter stories. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Gwen 🙂 I think short stories are here to stay. Social media and on-demand have changed how we spend our time. I remember certain TV shows using short stories for their weekly shows, like Night Gallery. So I like to think this surge of short stories means we will be seeing them more visually in the future.
      I find myself enjoying different genres than I’m willing to write. Happy reading! I have several collections I plan to read soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I write short stories of all sorts; ideal when you start writing at a writers’ group as you can read them out aloud. Though they should have some sort of conclusion, our tutor said short stories have the advantage of being able to put your characters in a situation without having to deal with all the consequences.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Your tutor makes a good point that the characters usually don’t have to face all the consequences of their actions in a short story like they would in a novel. I’ve never read one of my short stories aloud, what a great opportunity you have in doing so. Might have to give it a try. That’s great you are exploring many topics in your story 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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