How does writing a short story differ from writing a novel?
Teddy posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Does a short story have the same three act structure (three disasters, plus climax)as a novel?
Randy sez: A short story has a beginning, a middle, and an end, like a novel. However, you simply don’t have the space to build up to three major disasters and then work through a full-resolution ending, as you would in a novel.
I’m no master of the art of short story writing, but I’d say that you have a lot more latitude for structuring a short story than you do with a novel. As you go up the length scale for short stories, you’ll have room to put in more of the large-scale features of a novel.
However, the lowest level structure of the story (what Dwight Swain calls “Motivation-Reaction Units” — MRUs for short) is identical in a short story and in a novel. The reason is that this is where you “show, don’t tell.” And you only have a very few tools for “showing” — Action, Dialogue, Interior Monologue, Interior Emotion, and Description. Those tools are the same, whether you’re writing short or writing long.
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