Someone asked me recently to define a short story. I could understand her difficulty because it’s much easier to say what’s it’s not.
It’s not an idea that could have been developed into a novel had the writer the energy or inclination to go on a 80,000 word journey.
It seems to me that you have to write for the length of the idea. Some need the sharpness of flash fiction; some require the fine detail that’s achievable in 5000 words while other ideas want the expanse of a full length novel to grow and reach maturity. The great Irish writer Seán Ó Faoláin said a short story is to a novel as a hot air balloon is to a passenger jet. I guess the point he was making is that while they may both rise above the clouds they do it in very different ways.
William Boyd writing in…
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