What’s the Difference Between Writing a Novel and a Short Story?

The length, obviously. Not so obvious is how you think about them. A short story is about a single, or short series of events, usually taking place in a short period of time involving one or two characters, On the other hand, a novel can cover anywhere from a day to a century or more, and involve many characters.

In the two short stories I’ve just finished writing, one has just one main character and two others, and the other has two main characters and three other named characters. My latest novel has two main characters, a dozen secondary characters, and many more lesser ones.

So when you think about a story you’re going to write, you think of of what happens to a single person in a single basic situation, which may have several offshoots.

A novel is much more complicated. There’s the basic, underlying situation, For instance: Harry Potter has to go through school to learn what he needs to know to take down the archvillain. In order to do that, he has to deal with a whole bunch of smaller problems.

For a novel you start with the basic need, (Dorothy wants to get home, in murder mysteries the detective has to find the culprit, in War of The worlds, they have to get rid of the Martians.).

But there’s going to be many smaller problems along the way that the protagonist must overcome. You have a path from where your hero is to where he needs to be, and you need to put up a whole bunch of road blocks. This takes a lot of planning. How do other people/beings hinder him? How do his mistakes hinder him? How does the environment hinder him?

Remember, no hero is perfect. Coming up with a background for two or three people is easier than for a whole bunch. And you do need to know all about your main characters and lot about secondary ones.

One of my stories, the longer one, I’d originally written back in the dark ages, so it was a matter of rewriting and fleshing out my characters. It doesn’t hurt to go over your old stuff; you just might find a gem.

So think about your characters. Ask them what they would do in this situation. Yes, you can talk to them. Pretend you’re sitting down with them in your living room, ask questions, and see what answers come up. You’ll be surprised.

Setting: a story can be set in a single room or a whole world. A novel can be set in one town or the whole universe. Know what your settings look like and let the reader see it.

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