- By Christopher Anderson
- Published 03/24/2008
Short stories have not always found their place in great literature. Thanks to great writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Anton Chekhov and others, short stories have received great notoriety. Short story writing is a unique art and vastly different than novel writing in form and purpose. Where novel writing is complicated, has many things going on and creates a world of possibilities, short story writing focuses on a quick, powerful impact. Charles May wrote, “If the novel creates the illusion of reality by presenting a literal authenticity to the material facts of the external world, as Ian Watt suggests, the short story attempts to be authentic to the immaterial reality of the inner world of the self in its relation to eternal rather than temporal reality. “If the novel’s quest for extensional reality takes place in the social world and the material of its analyses are manners as the indication of one’s soul, as Lionel Trilling says, the field of research for the short story is the primitive, antisocial world of the unconscious, and the material of its analysis are not manners, but dreams. “The results of this distinction are that whereas the novel is primarily a social and public form, the short story is mythic and spiritual. While the novel is primarily structured on a conceptual and philosophical framework, the short story is intuitive and lyrical. The novel exists to reaffirm the world of ‘everyday’ reality; the short story exists to ‘defamiliarize’ the everyday.
“Storytelling does not spring from one’s confrontation with the everyday world, but rat
her from one’s encounter with the sacred (in which true reality is revealed in all its plenitude) or with the absurd (in which true reality is revealed in all its vacuity).” Thus writers of short stories take a different approach and use different techniques than that of novel writers. Rather than looking at the outward world for familiar like the novel, the short story looks at the inward world of the individual and tries to defamiliarize the outside world. By doing so the short story is a powerful way to point out individual and social misunderstandings. As a result the reader of short stories can focus on the pivotal climax of the short story as the peak of what the author is trying to get across. The art is to see the short scenes before the climax and how the make the pivotal moment happen in such a short amount of time. Being that the short story is short, authors need not concern themselves with unnecessary details that will distract from the authors goal. When writing short stories it may be appropriate to write and write and write, then cross out half of what has been written. This will help eliminate unnecessary, distracting details. Short stories are not novellas either. Novellas are simply short novels and they strive for a similar effect of a novel. Some longer short stories may resemble a novella because of length but; the intent, design and focus is different.
The short story gives glimpses of lives and events; whereas, the novel or novella encapsulate entire lives and multiple events. Some short stories span whole lives, showing different glimpses of a life. This is different than a novel or novella because, the short story will show certain events that work toward its aim and focus.