The Elements of Fiction
- The Building
Blocks of a Story
Terms to Know
"The Most Dangerous Game"
Possibility of Evil"
Beginnings of Something"
You Gone Charming Billy?"
"Encounter with Martin Luther King, Jr"
"To Build a Fire
Point of View
Bass, The River, and Sheila
Utterly Perfect Murder"
Happy Life of Francis
The Gift of the
"My Papa's Waltz"
The Red Masque of
The Sharks / A
Narrow Fellow in the Grass
The Cask of
Mi Caballo Mago
A Very Old Man
with Enormous Wings
Create a Short
Literary Elements Poster
Literary Elements Rubric
Literary Elements Checklist
Classic Short Story Selections
So.. What is a Short Story?
order to human experience.
explores cultural values.
an emotional response from the reader.
Like a great
journey, literature can show you things you have never seen
before and will never forget.
short story format offers this same full, rich experience of
literature but in a compressed period of time.
artists and critics have tried to define this format, there
remains no universally accepted definition. Merriam Webster
defines the short story as
"a genre or form
of prose fiction; shorter than a novel (under 10,000 words but
usually less than 7,000 and able to be read in one sitting), and
normally dealing with fewer characters and less action. A
more definitive explanation comes from a master of the genre himself.
Edgar Allan Poe says of the short story:
literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not
fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having
conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single
effect to be wrought out, he then invents such incidents—he
then combines such events as may best aid him in establishing
this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not
to the out-bringing of this effect, then he has failed in his
first step. In the whole composition there should be no word
written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to
the one pre-established design. And by such means, with such
care and skill, a picture is at length painted which leaves in
the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense
of the fullest satisfaction. The idea of the tale has been
presented unblemished, because undisturbed; and this is an end
unattainable by the novel. Undue brevity is just as
exceptionable here as in the poem; but undue length is yet more
to be avoided."
What is a
is the definition of a short story?
define a short story as a brief, focused fictional piece
that contains at minimum the following key elements:
plot, setting, characterization and some sort of
long should a short story be?
opinion, the optimal length for a short story is between
ten and fifty double-spaced pages of text. To me,
anything longer than this is a novella (a short novel).
Some other ways of defining the length of a short story
Short stories are short enough to be read in a
single sitting (from a half hour two hours). This
definition can be traced back to Edgar Allen Poe,
one of the first great short story writers.
Short stories are less than 5000 words.
Short stories are shorter than a novel.
a short story different from a novel?
opinion, the true difference between a short story and a
novel is that a short story has a unity of theme,
character and plot that is much more focused than a
novel. Here are some other ways of stating the
Short stories tend to concentrate on one major event
Short stories have only one or two main characters.
Short stories create a single specific effect.
Short stories are more compressed than novels.
Short stories do not have sub-plots.
are the minimum elements of a short story?
opinion, a short story has all of the elements of a
novel. Specifically, they tell a story, as the name
suggests. One or more characters experience an event or
conflict, and that event or conflict has an observable
effect on the character or characters. This
differentiates a short story from a character sketch,
which serves only to illustrate or flesh out a
character. It also differentiates a short story from
anecdotes or parables, which are often amusing or
demonstrate a lesson, but which do not necessarily call
for a character to be changed in any real way.
kind of short stories are there?
stories are as varied as novels. They can come from such
genres as horror, fantasy, romance, erotica, adventure
and science fiction. They can be action packed and
exciting or introspective and philosophical. They can be
romantic, sexy, satirical, cynical, bleak or optimistic.
to write what are called literary short stories.
Literary short stories focus more on character and tone
than plot. In most cases they avoid other genres. I also
tend to include a lot of humor in my stories, often
unintentionally. That is simply my style. Your style can
be whatever you want it to be.