Short stories & novels

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” - Neil Gaiman


The short story is one of the literary genres that you will encounter most often during the lessons, and with good reason. One of the key strenghts of the genre lies in its brevity 1. There is no exact definition as to when a short story exceeds 2 its genre, thus becoming a novella or a novel, or on the other hand too short, becoming merely an anecdote, but most of the short stories that we read during the lessons are less than ten pages. Like the short story genre, novels are equally undefined 3 in length, although some publishers allegedly defines novel-length as 50,000-110,000 words.

Characteristics of short stories

Given the limited amount of space, the short story needs to be very concise 4 in its communication and therefore it is often characterised by:

  • Revolving around only one conflict, experience or situation
  • Including a small number of characters
  • A rather short time span
  • A certain dramatic structure

In order to conduct 5 a thorough analysis of a short story or a novel, it is not enough to look at the characteristics mentioned above. There are several different approaches 6 to analysing works of fiction, but the typical approach would be new criticism, and the terms presented below.