The UVic Writer's Guide


Short Story


The short story, or tale, has many of the same characteristics as the novel. Generally, all details of a short story are arranged to achieve a single effect. The action moves rapidly, with minimal complication or detail of setting, and the significant characteristics of the protagonist's life are revealed economically through a central incident.

Short stories range from the short short story (as few as five hundred words in length) to the novelette or novella (a more complex story but still lacking the breadth of a novel). An example of the latter type is Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" (1902). In between these two types is the short story proper, which Edgar Allan Poe (one of its originators) described as "the prose tale." The fable and folk tale are precursors of the short story form.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated May 13, 1995