What distinguishes short stories from other literary forms?

What distinguishes short stories from other literary forms is that they tend to have very few central characters. It is through these characters' points of view that the story is told. A further distinction of short stories is that the action tends to take place in a relatively compressed time frame, usually in the space of a few hours or days.

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The best way to deal with this question is to compare short stories with novels. The most obvious difference between the genres is that short stories are, as their name suggests, shorter than novels. Whereas novels have no real limit on their length, any short story that exceeds, say, 15,000...

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The best way to deal with this question is to compare short stories with novels. The most obvious difference between the genres is that short stories are, as their name suggests, shorter than novels. Whereas novels have no real limit on their length, any short story that exceeds, say, 15,000 words would be approaching the length of a novella.

Given that short stories are shorter than novels, they inevitably tend to have fewer characters in them. In fact, the best and most effective short stories tend to have only one main character through whom the story is told. In a short story, it is the point of view of the main character that matters, whereas in a novel, there is much greater scope to play around with many different voices.

Short stories are similar to novels in that they often deal with a transformation of a particular character or characters. The difference, however, is that such transformations tend to be more convoluted and complex in novels, less smooth and clear-cut.

As a short story deals with a single transformation, the picture is not quite as complicated, though it can still surprise us. Many short stories have a surprise or twist ending that involves some kind of epiphany in the main character.

The action in short stories tends to take place in a very compressed time frame, usually over the course of a few hours, days, or even months. Novels, on the other hand, can range widely over decades or even millennia, in the case of fantasy fiction or sci-fi.

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