iUniverse returns with Part 2 of our short story workshop. As Edgar Allan Poe said, a short story should be able to be read in one sitting. Keeping this in mind, today we will discuss what type of setting to choose, as well as a time frame.
Setting. A short story should try its best to stick to one setting. This may be difficult to do, so the general rule is to stay within the same city. (An exception is science-fiction, which often treats entire planets in the way that other genres, e.g. mystery, treat a city.) Some writers have even managed to make their story take place within the same house, or even the same room! (See Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, respectively, for examples.)
Time frame. A short story is similar to a play, in that the action should take place over a short period of time. A period of two to three weeks would be the maximum. Have a look at Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and you will see that from start to finish, they are wrapped up in about a fortnight.
Writing style. While iUniverse would never dream of telling you how to write, do bear in mind that the short story, because of its brevity, prioritizes clarity over complexity. A good example is James Joyce, who was one of the most experimental novelists of all time but whose short story collection, Dubliners, contains tales told rather straightforwardly. Save the stream-of-consciousness and expositions of literary flourish for your novel, where you have the space and a greater investment of time from the reader.
We’ll be back with Part Three!