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  1. #1
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    The difference between short stories and novels

    Hello guys, I want to ask here about the thing that differentiates a short story from a novel?

    I mean, is it just length? And if it is, what is the difference then between a long short story and a short novel or a novella? And what is the maximum length of a short story and the minimum of a novel?

    I heard that novels deal with longer time and more situations than short stories, but I also know some novels that take place in less than 24 hours. And here arises a new question; does a short story have to focus on one situation only? And should a novel be stuffed with minor events and characters if it had one main events that is to say, the climax?

    I would be really thankful if anyone can answer me.
    "One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
    And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die."
    From John Donne's "Death, Be Not Proud".

  2. #2
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    Nov 2004
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    These classifications are pretty much arbitrary by nature, and, like the English language, for every rule there is an exception. The definition of short story is right there in the name, and my understanding is that a novella is 10-30,000 words, a novel starts at 100,000, and short stories usually fall below 10,000. Not hard and fast of course.

    As for other structural features, I don't think these really apply much any more. As you point out, short stories can adopt typical novelistic features, and vice versa. In general, the form does very much determine the possible structure - hence why short stories usually have a narrow focus, are more likely to limit themselves to one voice/perspective and cover a shorter span of time.

  3. #3
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    Jun 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Wallace View Post
    Hello guys, I want to ask here about the thing that differentiates a short story from a novel?

    I mean, is it just length? And if it is, what is the difference then between a long short story and a short novel or a novella? And what is the maximum length of a short story and the minimum of a novel?

    I heard that novels deal with longer time and more situations than short stories, but I also know some novels that take place in less than 24 hours. And here arises a new question; does a short story have to focus on one situation only? And should a novel be stuffed with minor events and characters if it had one main events that is to say, the climax?

    I would be really thankful if anyone can answer me.
    Star gives you a very good summary of the technical difference. Let me give you my unconventional defnition.

    The short story presents the art of telling a story, and that could range from an anectdote to tale to stream of conscious set of thoughts. As long as it crafts a story and it's interesting, it's a short story. A novel is the art of arranging and presenting human experience. Now the act of presenting human experience requires to some degree a story form, but that is really a subset of its first primary objective. Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse, a truely great novel, is really quite a simple if not mundane story. But the human experience narrated is profound. It would never have worked as a short story; its relevance requires a novel genre.

    Hope that makes sense.
    Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt. [Here are the tears of things; mortality touches the heart. - Virgil]

    "Well, I hope we're not too messianic / Or a trifle too satanic / We love to play the blues" ~ Jagger/Richards, from "Monkey Man"


    At twenty you have many desires which hide the truth, but beyond forty there are only real and fragile truths -your abilities and your failings. ~ T. S. Eliot



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    Marlow, you're back?!?

  5. #5
    Once upon a time (aka when I was in school) I learned that there are a few strucutral things with which you can determine if something is a short story or just a brief story.

    First thing was, the beginning of the story is quite immediately, the reader is thrown into the story headfirst and has to seek orientation.

    Then, in "classic" short stories, there is always a "story inside the story", like a symbolic, closed circle of the ongoing events. Or, to be less obscure, another little story that somehow mirrors the actual story in setting, plot and/or meaning.

    Last but not least, the end of a short story is mostly as abrupt as the beginning, very often with open ends.

    I've found this very useful when trying to distinguish between lengthy short stories and novellas, and of course between short stories and shorter tales.

    Of course this is just a rule of thumb, there are several exceptions to this structure.
    Last edited by aggitha; 03-24-2009 at 08:29 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    533
    Actually, as odd as it might appear, I think it's just length, which does not make a work of art better or worse. A short short could have more to chew upon than a 100,000 word piece.

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