What is a Short Story?
Williams wrote, "The principal feature [of] the short story
is that it is short—and so must pack in what it has to say
... It seems to me to be a good medium for nailing down a
single conviction. Emotionally."
In Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, Janet Burroway writes: "Many editors and writers insist that the short story and the novel are vastly different creatures. It is my belief, however, that, like the distinction between story and plot, the distinction between the two forms is very simple, and the many and profound possibilities of difference proceed from that simple source: A short story is short, and a novel is long.
Because of this, a short story can waste no words. It usually features the perspective of one or very few characters. It may recount only one central action and one major change in the life of the central character or characters. It can afford no digression that does not directly affect the action. A short story strives to create what Edgar Allen Poe called "the single effect"--a single emotional impact that imparts a flash of understanding, though both impact and understanding may be complex. The virtue of the short story is its density, for it raises a single 'what if' question, while a novel may raise many. If it is tight, sharp, economical, well knit, and charged, then it is a good short story because it has exploited a central attribute of the form--that it is short ... while no literary form is superior to another, few novelists achieve publication without first having crafted any number of short stories. The greater the limitation of space, the greater the necessity for pace, sharpness, and density. Short stories ask the writer to rise to the challenges of shaping, 'showing,' and making significance again and again."
About the creator
Nicole Dixon is a
dedicated reader and writer of short stories. In 2005 she
won the Bronwen Wallace Award
was shortlisted for the Journey Prize and a
CBC Literary Award. Her writing has
appeared in Grain, The Fiddlehead, The
New Quarterly and Canadian Notes and Queries.
Her first book, High-Water Mark, a collection of
short stories, will be published by Porcupine's Quill in 2012. Nicole
holds a BA and MA in creative writing and English, a
BEd, and just completed a Master of Library and
Information Studies at Dalhousie University in