The Short Story and the Novel


The Short Story appeared in the 19th century, inherited from tales and narratives. As Edgar Allan Poe stated, a Short Story must have a “unity of impression, of totality and of single effect”.

It could be compared to poetry: consciousness, inner life, and the end of the story subjected to many interpretations lead to a sudden illumination from the part of the reader: at a certain point, this latter understands everything.

The Novel is based on a principle of disgression whereas the short story is based on compression. In the short story, there are no useless details and everything is important: one single detail can deeply affect a character and have many consequences on the plot.

The short story is short (!) but tends to go thoroughly into the characters’ minds. The spiritual and inner quest, as well as the closed spaces, are necessary to the achievement of the plot: there is often a scheme of circularity, ie we always go back to the beginning, even if it has changed.

The final situation is the sum of the initial situation mixed up with transformations, either affecting the character himself or his surrounding.

The Short Story and the Novel

Length : A short story is short and a novel is relatively long.

The term ” short story ” is normally applied to works of fiction from one thousand to fifteen thousand words.

Novels are generally thought of containing about forty-five thousand words or more. The short story is neither a truncated novel nor a part of an unwritten novel.

Edgar Allan Poe settled the matter of a short story’s length when he said it should be short enough to be read in one sitting.

Poe also said the story should be long enough to produce the desired effect on the reader.


The plot of the short story will often turn on a single incident that takes on great significance for the characters.

The art of Poe depends for success on intensity and purity of emotional effect based on rigorous selection and arrangement of materials and on intensity and purity of emotional effect. Poe aimed at a sublimation of terror.

Development implies time, and the writer of a short story has little time at his disposal.

Therefore, characters seldom develop in the short story. Rather, they are revealed to us.

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