Short Story Definition
A short story is a fully developed story that is shorter than a novel and longer than a fable. It typically takes just a single sitting for reading. Short Story focuses on the incidents bigger or smaller and evokes strong feelings from its readers. A short story often has a few characters in the plot.
Features of a Short Story
As a short story is mostly a short narrative and has few features. The standard features include exposition, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution of the crisis. However, it is not essential that all short stories follow the same pattern.
Difference between Short Story, Novella, and Novel
Writers do not agree on the exact length of a story but some say that it presents only one aspect of life and is reasonably beyond or within a 3,000 to 7,000-word count. However, a novelette is a bit longer and typically presents several aspects of the life of a character or some character such as Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. However, novels are divided into chapters, are longer, and are usually above 50,000 words. Some novels are in higher volumes like Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities or Judge the Obscure by Thomas Hardy.
How to Write and Plot a Short Story?
When writing a short story or creating a plot of a short story, keep these points in your mind.
- Create lifelike characters and move them fast in the story. It’s also called pace.
- Keep the number of characters quite limited, if and when possible. Ideally, they should be more than one and less than five. Especially when you are just in the learning stage.
- Create a conflict between characters or between a character and nature.
- Put a resolution or mystery by the end or In Medias Res.
- Use figurative language.
Five (5) Major Elements of a Short Story
Although there are several elements and it could depend on the writer what to include or what not to include, these five are fundamental elements of a short story.
Examples of Short Stories from Literature
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde
The Happy Prince is one of the best stories written in English Literature written by Oscar Wilde. The story shows how the elites of that kingdom neglect the poor. And the statue of the Happy Prince takes the help of a Swallow to help the poor of the city. One by one, the Prince starts losing his precious stones, rubies, and gold leaves when the Swallow starts plucking them to give to the poor that the Prince can see from his high pedestal. The dramatic irony of the story reaches the climax when the city mayor sees the dead bird and the ugly broken statue. When the statue is sent to a furnace, God invites the Prince and the Swallow to live in the City of Gold in heaven.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte sheds light on the difficulties faced by the narrator of the story, due to depression after childbirth. Her husband John, a physician, takes her to a countryside home for the cure and assumes that she is suffering from hysteria. He doesn’t allow her to do her favorite activities, like writing which helps her escape reality. She is also distant to her child. After a while, she is obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room and imagines that a woman, like her, is stuck in it and wants to come out. To help the imaginary woman, the narrator starts peeling the wallpaper. By the end of the story, John, sees her creeping around the room and faints. The story also highlights how many women are ignored by their spouses, leading them to depression.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is another wonderful example of a short horror story. In the story, the anonymous narrator tells about the murder of an old man that he has committed in cold blood because he had ‘vulture eyes’. The story is told in the first-person narrative and explores the state of mind of a person. The narrator has hallucinations after the murder when he feels guilty. He convinces the readers that he is not insane. By the end of the story, he continues to hallucinate and asks what to do to make the old man’s heart stop. This is an excellent example of a short story having a few characters and a complicated theme.
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
This story is an extraordinary piece of its time. Louise Mallard, probably oppressed by her husband, is relieved when she sees the prospects of freedom after the death of her husband. She rejoices and imagines a bright future after receiving the news. However, Brently Mallard, Louise’s husband returns home. The pain of her failing dreams causes her to suffer a heart attack and death. The doctor assumes that she has died of heart failure as she couldn’t absorb the happiness at her husband’s arrival.
The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant
The Necklace is one of the best short stories. It revolves around the life of a clerk in the ministry of education and his extraordinarily beautiful wife, Mathilda. She borrows an expensive necklace from her friend for a ball but loses it when they are returning home. They, somehow, arrange to replace it after purchasing the original necklace with borrowed money and spend their lives in the struggle to pay back the loan. After several years, they met the same friend again. To their horror, she tells them that her necklace was fake.
To Build a Fire by Jack London
To Build a Fire is the story of an anonymous character who leaves home for a destination on the Yukon trail but faces heavy snow which makes him fall. He tries to kill his dog to keep himself alive, but the dog also senses his intentions. Later, he tries to make the fire but does not succeed and dies. His struggle and his wrong notion about his strength and thinking power prove fatal for him. This is one of the best short stories without the names of the characters.
Short Story Meaning and Function
A short story presents one aspect of the life of a character. It could be an incident, an event, a description of a feeling, or even a simple act. A short story can also impact a reader and even inspire them. For persons who cannot read novels, enjoy reading the short stories. Moreover, in a short story, the characters also share their innermost thoughts, their motives, their feelings, their emotions, and different notions.