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What is a short story? Can you give me a one-sentence definition of a short story?

billdelaney's profile pic

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What is a short story?

Can you give me a one-sentence definition of a short story?

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nicky35's profile pic

Posted (Answer #2)

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A short fictional narrative text that usually consist of a tight plot and is limited in theme, setting and number of character and events by its length.

literaturenerd's profile pic

Posted (Answer #3)

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While the above is correct, I would tend to add the the short story is a text which tends to follow the traditional plot line: introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and conclusion. (That being said, not all short stories follow this plot line.) Therefore, a concise definition is troublesome.

vangoghfan's profile pic

Posted (Answer #4)

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The two preceding answers are very helpful.  Here's another attempt at a one-sentence definition: a work of fiction long enough to develop one plot but not long enough to develop more than one plot or to contain subplots.

pohnpei397's profile pic

Posted (Answer #5)

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It is also a story that does not have many characters because it does not have the time or the space to develop them fully.  This is in keeping with the idea that this is a genre in which there is just not enough space to do very much.

lmetcalf's profile pic

Posted (Answer #6)

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Edgar Allen Poe (an early pioneer of the genre) would say that it is a short work of fiction which can be read in single sitting and where all of its elements contribute to "a single effect." Thus, it will be concise and controlled as it progresses towards its ultimate end point.

billdelaney's profile pic

Posted (Answer #7)

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The two preceding answers are very helpful.  Here's another attempt at a one-sentence definition: a work of fiction long enough to develop one plot but not long enough to develop more than one plot or to contain subplots.

Does it have to be fiction?

billdelaney's profile pic

Posted (Answer #8)

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It is also a story that does not have many characters because it does not have the time or the space to develop them fully.  This is in keeping with the idea that this is a genre in which there is just not enough space to do very much.

You are saying that a story is a story, but I need a definition of a story as well as of a short story.

e-martin's profile pic

Posted (Answer #9)

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This is not an easy question. Yes - a short story is a work of fiction almost always. A non-fiction short narrative that utilizes literary devices would be called "creative non-fiction" these days.

The "single effect" definition offered in post 6 seems more cut-and-dry than anything I can come up with, but I would write my one sentence definition like this:

A short story is a work of fiction seeking to express an idea, describe a person or place, or convey a feeling through prose and can be distinguished from a novel by a narrowness of scope and usually presents its narrative in a single, linear time frame.

billdelaney's profile pic

Posted (Answer #10)

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This is not an easy question. Yes - a short story is a work of fiction almost always. A non-fiction short narrative that utilizes literary devices would be called "creative non-fiction" these days.

The "single effect" definition offered in post 6 seems more cut-and-dry than anything I can come up with, but I would write my one sentence definition like this:

A short story is a work of fiction seeking to express an idea, describe a person or place, or convey a feeling through prose and can be distinguished from a novel by a narrowness of scope and usually presents its narrative in a single, linear time frame.

Thank you. Very helpful. But how short is short? What is the maximum length? How can you tell whether a story is true or whether it is fiction (that is, false)?

 

e-martin's profile pic

Posted (Answer #11)

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The "veracity" of a text can only be determined by talking with the writer, which means that we more-or-less have to go by the book's categorization as either fiction or non-fiction. We can never know how much a person is actually making up.

As far the "how short is short" question goes, I don't know if there is a standard. One number that gets thrown out there dividing novellas from novels is 60,000. If a book has 60,000 words or more, it's generaly considered a novel.

This obviously doesn't help distinguish a long "short story" from a novella...

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