How Long is a Short Story – (And Why)?

Exact Answer: 100-5000 words

What Is A Short Story?

A short story is a story that is only so many words long.

That being said it is also important to note that being shorter than other story types does not make the story incomplete in any way. They still possess a full theme and plot like larger stories do, it is just more condensed.

How Long Is A Short Story?

Short Story TypeLength
Drabble~100 Words
Fable~2-3 Pages
Feghoot~300 Words
Flash Fiction~less than 1,500 Words
Frame Story~530 pages
Mini-saga50 words
Story Sequence~10-15 pages
Sketch Story~5,000 Words
Vignette~800-1000 Words

Overtime literary experts examined the lengths of different texts to decide how long a short story must be, including many classic stories that were deemed short at their time of publication. After a large amount of studying people were able to reach a general agreement.

When looking at the most famous authors they noticed that there was a general trend in lengths and determined that the length of a short story should be around seven thousand five hundred words and at the absolute most ten thousand words.

The reason that they allow you to write up to ten thousand words, even though it is preferred that you do not, and still fit into this category is because of different languages and writing styles. For example, if you are an author who chooses to use few to no contractions, (don’t, can’t, won’t, etc), throughout your work you are permitted this extended length to make up for the extra words that typing the full forms of these would take up.

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This way you are still able to thoroughly give the emotions and logic that you want your piece to convey while also still fitting within the short story category of writing. Despite mentioning how literary experts studied in order to determine the proper length, this does not fully explain why short stories must fit within this given word count.

Why Are Short Stories This Length?

The reason they decided this would be an appropriate length for this definition is because of the other already present story types. One of these story types includes Flash Fiction which is an extremely short story that has any word count less than or equal to one thousand five hundred.

This is a common genre for authors who wish to write something that is short, interesting to read, and also very emotionally powerful. An example of a piece of flash fiction is Women’s Work by Amelia Aldred which was written to be only nine hundred eighty-five words long.

Another type of genre is novelettes which are shorter novels with lengths of only seven thousand five hundred words to twenty thousand words. An example of a common novelette would be The House of Aunts written by Zen Cho who used only around fifteen thousand words to complete this piece.

Given these previously determined definitions of story lengths, experts decided that short stories must fall somewhere in between the two and gave them the previously mentioned length specifications. This also matches lengths previously used by famous short story authors including:

  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Katherine Mansfield
  • Kate Chopin
  • Robert Olen Butler
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