The short story is basically a miniature novel. It relies on the same literary devices that are used in the novel such as character, plot, theme and language. However, due to its length, the short story must use these devices more effectively. Although the length of a short story is not restricted, most are between 1,000 to 20,000 words long.
The general rule of thumb is a person should be able to read an entire short story in one sitting.
A short story revolves around a single plot consisting of a small amount of characters. The plot occurs over a short period of time and little exposition is given. In addition, a short story begins almost instantaneously and the only information that is relevant to the story is revealed. The action moves rapidly and literary devices are arranged to achieve a single lasting impression in a short amount of time.
The origins of the short story, can be traced to some of the first forms of written poetry. One well known example is Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” However, most historians agree that the progenitor of the short story was Boccaccio’s “Decameron” in 1351 along with the French translation of “The Thousand and One Nights” in 1704.
The short story as a literary form really began to flourish during late 19th century. This was mainly due to the growth of print magazines and journals. Their wide circulation enabled authors to reach a wider audience, which created a strong market demand for short fiction.
Short story masterpieces include “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner and “The Tell-Tale Heart “by Edgar Allan Poe. Poe is recognized by many writers and critics as the master of the short story.
Perhaps the short story that came the closest to achieving a Poe like effect is “The Lottery ” by Shirley Jackson. The story is about a small community that gets together for a lottery drawing. Jackson creates the perfect amount of suspense as readers are led to believe the lottery is something that every person is the community is hoping to win. It is only within the last few paragraphs that readers learn the grim truth that the lottery is really about a community sacrifice.
Presently, there isn’t as much demand by magazines and journals to publish short stories. However, this shouldn’t suggest that short stories are no longer being written or published. Many magazines including the The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker still publish short stories. Quite a few writers also submit their short stories to be published in anthologies such as The Best American Short Stories series.
In short, short stories are an entertaining form of literature to read, especially for those pressed for time. This particular literary format is ideal for amateur writers that may not be experienced enough to complete a full length novel. Short stories are also a great format for experienced writers to test their creative skills. Investing in a collection of short stories is an ideal way to fill small pockets of time.
“The Lottery.” Wikipedia. 7 Mar. 2007. 14 Mar. 2007 .
Short Story. Wikipedia. 28 July 2006. 28 July 2006 .
Charcteristics of the Short Story. Higher Results Consultancy. 28 July 2006 .