Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Difference Between Novels & Shorts

Short stories are much different than novels.  You have to get all your ideas in one short little time span, which is sometimes harder to do than writing a full length novel.  Octavia Butler, who wrote sci-fi and only one book of short stories, repeatedly said that she wasn't a short story writer, she was a novel writer, but that these ideas just needed a place to go.  So what are the differences between the two?

Word Count

The first and most obvious is how long each are.  NaNoWriMo says that a novel is 50,000 words or more, and that's a pretty good estimate.  You're looking at roughly 100 pages in Microsoft Word.  Short stories usually range from 1500 - 3000 words, about a sixth of novel.  But don't be fooled: shorter doesn't mean easier.

Character development

In a novel, you, essentially, have as much space as you need to create your story and your characters.  You want to write 600 pages to introduce and develop everyone?  You've got it.  George R.R. Martin has numerous characters in his books, and spans that development over (so far) five, very long, books.

In a short story, you're limited.  You only get about 3000 words, at most, and you need that space for other things.  Your character's entire background had to be succinct, and take up just a few paragraphs.

World Building

Whether it's short story or novel, you're always dropped right in the middle of a world.  When writing novels, you have to make it like this place has always existed, that it's always been there,
because in that book, it has.  But you have a ton of time in a novel to show the reader that world.  Your readers should always catch on to what's happening, and the differences in that world, within a few paragraphs, but you have the whole book to let them explore it, to become a part of it, and to discover its mysteries.

In a short story, you have very little time to acclimate yourself to that world, so you better write it well, and clearly, and let the readers know exactly what's going on it it.  Because in four sentences, you have to introduce conflict.

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