Intern Cris blogs about the length of short stories.
As I was sampling pieces of writing from various short stories on the internet the other day, I was impressed. They were short, but it was amazing how much the authors were able to develop their characters and their conflicts in such few pages. I also came across some wonderful stories that were much longer, yet their use of description wasn’t overbearing, their conflicts were complex and intricate, and their characters were remarkably well developed. Unfortunately, there were some other longer stories that could have stood to lose a page or two of unnecessary filler. It’s not that these particular stories were bad, they just had too much.
So how long should a short story or a submission be? Should we limit our authors to something like a strict, arbitrary page limit? No, we shouldn’t because some authors need more space to finish their story, and honestly, certain stories are better written when they exceed shorter, arbitrary page limits. Sometimes, an author’s conflict needs more time to resolve and sometimes they have a two-dimensional characters that needs time to develop into a three-dimensional character with realistic depth. It all depends on what the story’s conflict is, how the characters develop, and the amount of time and space the author needs to finish writing all of it. There are stories that are better formed and shaped with more pages while others fit nicely into only a few pages.
I think that a short story should be however long it takes for an author to fully resolve its conflict so that the main character can go though enough character development for there to be a subtle but noticeable change. In other words: the number of pages a story has doesn’t matter at all. As long as the story has a point to it, and its characters are able to experience a realistic change, it doesn’t matter whether the story is long or short.