Short Story Writing Class Lessons

I recently took a short story writing class. This wasn’t an in depth exploration rather a general overview with time to practice and share with other writers.

Thought I’d share a little of what I learned with you and why I’m questioning if this works in romance.

Couple asleep on a bed head against headAs a reader, I love romantic shorts. But now I’m reading and seeing that maybe the ones I love are short novels and not short stories?

The short story compared to a novel:

Word Count: For the purposes of the class the short story was defined as having a length of between 5000 and 20,000 words. Beyond that was a novella, less than that was flash fiction (another favorite of mine!). Novels were defined as having 80,000 words or more.

Timeframe: Depending on length, short stories take place in a short amount of time. Think a day, a week, no more than a month depending on word count. Novel of course can span years and generations.

Characters: The short story has very few characters. The professor warned against having more than five at the high end of the word count. Her reasoning was that to fully develop even a minor character, word count is used up and takes away from the plot development. The novel can have as many as you dream up because the word count can sustain them.

Setting: The short story has one or two fully visualized settings (see prof’s reasoning above). This is one I struggled with accepting, personally. I don’t want to be in one or two places for 20,000 words for a romance. But then I thought about a murder mystery and I liked the idea.

Plot: The short story has one central crisis for the protagonist to overcome and move him or her towards resolution. According to the prof, the novel has this freedom to twist and turn and evolve into something different that what it seemed to be in the beginning.

For the most part, short mysteries follow these guidelines. I looked through the Kindle and yes there were few characters, limited settings in a tight time frame and yes there was only the central crisis – solve the mystery.

Back to my question – does this work for romantic shorts? Do readers only want to get lost for a long time in a different world or is there an audience for the quickie?

Books I Liked During the Class:

Crafting Novels & Short Stories by Editor’s of Writer’s Digest

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman

2 thoughts on “Short Story Writing Class Lessons

  1. Interesting post. I’ve taken a flash fiction class, love flash. And I did a 7000 word short with several settings. It wasn’t really a romance, more of a paranormal tragedy!

    • I love flash fiction in that you must hide all the details but they must show through in the story. An amazing accomplishment. I think I’ll post my flash fiction piece later in the week.

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