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Short Stories vs. Novels

March 20, 2012

What makes a short story different from a novel? It is not solely a matter of word count that differentiates the two. I recently have had to put my novel writing on hold in order to concentrate on the short stories required for the creative writing course I am taking. Although this has slowed down my progress on my bigger project, it has allowed me to take a break from my now-familiar fantasy world in order to try out other options and writing styles.

The most important difference for me is the ending. In a novel, the ending is typically expected to bring the writing to a satisfactory close. In a short story, the ending is expected to be a twist that the reader does not expect even when looking for a twist. The most important parts of a novel are the plot and the characters, whereas the most important part of a short story is the feeling the readers get when they finish the last sentence. All sections of a novel are almost equally important to the story as a whole, while all parts of a short story are typically written solely to get to the desired surprise ending. This changes the style both the writer and the reader must employ with regards to the piece.

What do you see as the main difference between short stories and novels?

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  1. Short stories often require the paring down of information, allowing the reader only a brief glimpse into a world and themes that a full-length novel would spend much more time digging more deeply into. However, that short burst of information can sometimes make the story and themes that much more clear, by being free of all that additional “clutter” that a novel tends to have.

  2. I believe the short story focus on one main action and every single element must emphasize it, while in a novel different actions and different themes are evoked thoroughly.

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