1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story vs. Story (Novel)

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Gannon, Jan 15, 2009.

    What seperates a short story from a novel, apart from length? I was asked this recently but came up fairly short as for an answer. I said:

    Is it easier to define a short story by what it is not, that what it is?
     
  2. Mello
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    Mello Member

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    I dunno, I think they are just like novels. In a way. I mean, a short story usually tries to get across the same amount of story in a different length, so its another type of challenge. Although short stories are by no means "watered-down" versions of novels.

    Sure, they don't have several developed characters or many running plot-lines but don't writers of novels just do those things to keep them interesting because they're so...long?

    A lot of you can probably testify that you love certain short stories just as much as you love certain novels, so its obvious that both types of stories are crafted to have the same amount of emotional impact. The short story just has to do it in a much more strategic fashion.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A short story can attempt to be a mini-novel, but I think the main distinction is that a short story stays focused on a single central plot. A novel has to weave together a tapestry of related plots.

    A novel is based on complexity, whereas a short story's challenge is to stay tightly focused.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short stories are structured and paced differently than in a novel.

    The plot complexity of a short story is less than than of a novel and characterization is handled in a different manner.

    In general, there are fewer characters and fewer round and dynamic characters in a short story than in a novel.

    Terry
     
  5. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    It's like the difference between a redwood and a little decorative yard tree. They're different sizes, they look different, they're constructed differently, and though they're related and are in the same family, they're two completely different things. The simple fact is, they should not be treated the same because they're not. A novel is not a long short story and a short story is not a very short novel. There are other differences not as easy to pinpoint--some have been mentioned above--but simply put the two are just different things.

    This isn't terribly clarifying, but what else can be said? One wouldn't wonder too long about the difference between a redwood and a decorative yard tree.
     
  6. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you've gotten it backwards. A novel is so long because it has several developed characters and many running plot lines. It doesn't have several developed characters and many running plot lines to fill it out. The purpose comes first, the structure second.

    ETA: At least, that's how I see it. Others may have different opinions.
     
  7. Scarecrow28
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    Scarecrow28 Contributing Member

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    Well, short stories tend to have a single plot rather than the multiple, interweaving plots of novels. Characters may not undergo as much, if any, change during the course of the story as their is much less time for this change to occur. Characters also may not be fleshed-out during a short story as much in as they would in a novel for the same reason.
     
  8. othman
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    othman Member

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    Err...surely the main distinction would be length?

    Wikipedia (yes, I know, Wikipedia) defines novelettes to be lengthed around 7,500 and 17,500 with a novella being 17,500 and 40,000 and anything longer to be a novel of some description. With that in mind I think a short story would, indeed, be shorter than 7,500 ... think about it though, 7,500 and under wouldn't be particularly long even if it was at the longest point of that bracket and with anything under about 5,000 being impossible to name anything other than a short story.
     
  9. Jack
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    Jack Contributing Member

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    Glossary of Terms (I find it useful)

    Check out the site: http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/ssfs_0000_0023_0/ssfs_0000_0023_0_00026.html

    I also didn't know that "novella" is another word for story...
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...it's not... at least not in english... and while it is an italian word, the word for 'story' in italian is 'storia' or 'racconto'... in italian, as in english, 'novella' just means what the structure of the word indicates, a 'short story'... the italian version is also translated as the catch-all, 'fiction' [which may explain the confusion with 'story']...

    ...in either language, 'novella' or 'novelette' is a short version of a novel... a piece of fictional prose that falls in size between a short story and a novel...
     
  11. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    How could you get a story beyond say 10,000 words without without multiple characters or several stories (which include mini adventures within a big adventure like in quest stories)? It's not to keep them from being boring, it's because the story needs it if you want it to be that length.
     
  12. TwinPanther13
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    I really believe that you can see a lot of change in a character of a short story. Ususally the change is more drastic, actually only in some cases.

    My point is the distinction is basically length and depth. A short story can be meaningful like a picture of a landscape. That pic can move you deeply if done well.

    Novels are the video of that same scene that gives you a close up of each leaf, grain of sand, and body of water the photograph encompases.
     
  13. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I guess it depends on the length of what is consider a short story. Nonetheless, I think a short story is more like a chapter in a novel than like a novel.
     
  14. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    I've never seen a definition of short story, novel etc, that wasn't based on length and length alone. Other characteristics can be identified, but the distinction as to which label should be used is always based on length.

    For all of the characteristics discussed above, such as complexity, change of character, interweaving of plots etc, if you were to compile a list of all of the characterics that apply to short stories and write something of that type, but at 50,000 words, it would not be considered a short story. If you were to compile a list of the characteristics that apply to novels and squeeze that into 6,000 words, it would not be considered a novel.

    So I don't think anything can be said to separate a novel from a short story other than length, even though other characteristics may apply in general terms.

    The number of words at which the distinction is made is not written in stone, so one man's short story can be another man's novella, etc.
     

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