Reasons for a Short Story

What is the big deal about short stories? Why have them? Why do readers prefer the short story over a full blown novel? First, let me say that novel length manuscripts have NOT gone by the wayside. There are still vast numbers of people (myself included) who read the thousands of wonderful books out there. Yet, short stories are on the rise. More and more readers are turning to the short story. What is different today, then let’s say 40 years ago? Are there reasons the short story is more popular to day?

Short Attention Spans & Time

It has been said that our attention spans are shrinking, therefore our desire to sit a read a four hundred page novel has also shrunk. One study suggested that our attention span has dropped to a mere 8 seconds. The statistics were published in Time magazine, the Telegraph, the GuardianUSA Today, the New York Times and the National Post. Since 2015, that theory has been debunked.

Another angle is we just have too many choices (think mega-stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, or coffee shops like Starbucks). When I walk into a coffee shop with a menu the size of the Encyclopedia Britannica I can’t make a clear decision so I order coffee and leave. Quick, easy, and black.

Time, for many people, is a huge culprit. Busy lives can drain away minutes, hours, days, and weeks before we realize that the time has gone by. Careers and family obligations alone can drain the day away. When there is only twenty minutes left for reading, a novel is challenging to get through.

Short Stories

Whatever the reasons, a short story can fill the tiny gaps in our day. They are usually quick reads that are satisfying, and packed with meaning. Short story writers learn early on how to keep a tale riding on a tight rope. They are a trapeze artist walking a narrow path with the reader, their audience, holding their collective breath. When the artist reaches that last sentence the audience erupts with applause.

There is always the quick gratification that is gotten through a short story. A reader can sit and finish a full bodied story in about an hour.


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5 thoughts on “Reasons for a Short Story

  1. Short stories are satisfying to write because you can have a finished product in an hour or two (depending on the length). However, when it comes to reading, I prefer the slow burn of a novel. I can’t read too many short stories in one sitting because it’s hard to savor each one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree about reading more than one short story at a time. I usually read a short story when my reading time is short then go back to my novel.

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  2. Interesting reasoning. I read primarily novels and, yet; I remember reading short stories in my teens – decades ago. Perhaps because I could then read more from an author? Or some authors wrote more shorts? Fritz Leiber?

    I write novel length yet have tackled more shorts recently. A challenge?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read more short stories years ago as well. Mostly in school. My high school English classes all read short stories, but my university classes were novels. My daughter’s English classes (both HS and University) have been novels. Times do change.

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