What Are the Characteristics of a Short Story?

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A short story is a work of fiction that is shorter than a novel, yet is also a complete narrative that focuses typically on a singe character. Unlike novels, which explore multiple plots and themes, short stories usually focus on a single theme or event.

As a result, short story writers concentrate on developing action or creating mood in the story and limit excessive narration and setting descriptions. Despite their brevity, short stories still follow traditional dramatic structure and include an exposition, conflict, rising action, climax and resolution.

The modern short story format was initially defined by writer Edgar Allan Poe as a story that can be read in one sitting. As a result, most short stories range between 1,000 and 20,000 words.