Some of the finest pieces of fiction are short stories. Reading a short story does not take much time, but you may remember it forever. Some of Stephen King and Roald Dahl’s best work is short fiction. My favourite short story is Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter.
Because they are short, with a simple dramatic structure, short stories are easily adapted for film. In fact, Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption became The Shawshank Redemption starring Morgan Freeman.
But what is a short story?
The simplest answer is that it is short. It should have an impact and a meaning, and it should be memorable. It is a retelling of an incident and it usually contains:
- a single main character (protagonist)
- a simple plot structure
- a clear beginning, middle, climax and end
There is usually no sub-plot and some of the secondary characters may be one-dimensional.
What makes a great short story?
However, the main character, in a good short story is three dimensional and undergoes some change in the story. He or she should not be entirely the same person at the end. Something happens. Something changes. An insight is gained. Something shocking is revealed. A new direction is taken. A person has become a stronger or a weaker character.
And how long should it be?
The short-short story is around 1 000 – 1 500 words. The short story is 2 000 – 5 000 words or longer. ( A novella is 30 000-60 000 words and the average novel is 80 000 words.)
If you want to learn more about writing short stories, join us for Short Cuts – How to write a short story.
© Amanda Patterson
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