Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Short Reads

by Jeanette O'Hagan @JeanetteOHagan

I love immersing myself in a thick novel with a large cast of characters, a stunning out-of-this-world setting, a convoluted twisty plot. But I will confess to a growing love and appreciation short fiction, stories that can often be enjoyed in a single sitting. Many classic and well-know tales fall into this category, from Aesops' fables to biblical parables to Grimm's fairly tales. Other memorable short stories include O Henry's heartbreaking Gift of the Magi, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl or (novella size), Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol.

With the constraints of busy modern lives and the ease of publishing them online, short fiction is making a comeback. There are a number of Christian writers who have written shorter works.

Types of short fiction:

1. Mirco-Fiction - up to 100 words.

Though hard to write well, these are becoming increasingly popular with mobile phones and texting and Twitter (280 characters). Clearly, every word must count. 

Ernest Hemingway's famous example of a six-word story is as follows 'For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.'

2. Flash Fiction - between 100-1000 words.

These stories can be used as 'palate cleansers' between longer stories in magazines or may be included in collections and anthologies.   Breath of Fresh Air Press  publishes the top ten entries for the  Faith Writers Challenge (750 words on a weekly theme) including Genre-lly Speaking (each week focused on a different genre) or As Time Goes By (the themes all revolve around time). 

These are great to dip into when you have a few spare minutes to be refreshed and inspired.

3. Short Story - between 1,000 - 10,000 words

This is often what we think of as a short story. Many competitions, periodical, 'zines and anthologies require this length - often around 2000 to 3000 words.  Speculative fiction (sci-fi and fantasy) have bigger words counts of between 7000-10,000 words.

A good short story can be like a short black, a shot of imagery, emotion, life. It may enjoyed over a cuppa, but leave you pondering for hours afterwards. 
These days, short stories can be published as stand alone works as ebooks (for instance, my The Herbalist's Daughter or Lakwi's Lament)

4. Novellettes and Novellas - 10,000 - 50,000 words

There is confusion with the term 'novellette'. For some, it means a novella while for others it is a short piece that falls in between a long short story and a novella. While a novella is often 20,000 words or more up to 50,000.

A novella (and to some extent a novellette) allows more complexity, with perhaps more characters and twists and  develops over a longer period of time, though there is generally not room for subplots (as there may be in a full-sized novel).

While novellas are not generally popular with publishers, with the advent of ebooks and Indie publishing, novellas have become much more popular.

A novella may be a prequel.  Depending on the size, it might take two to three hours to read and might be enjoyed over a long lunch or a lazy afternoon. A novella can be a stand alone (e.g. Meredith Resce's romance Where There is Smoke), part of a series (my Under the Mountain series starting with Heart of the Mountain) or a serial with episodes and seasons (Adam David Collings Jewel of the Stars), or a prequel to a novel series.

Novellas and short stories can also be included in anthologies with multiple contributors (eg Glimpses of Light or  Noblebright's Still Waters), as a collection (as in  my Ruhanna's Flight and other stories) or as a boxed set of novellas usually with different contributing authors, (e.g. an Aussie Summer Christmas boxed set).

Why read short stories

  • Often can be read and enjoyed in one sitting or over a short period of time, so are great when you are busy or have limited time or mind-space for reading.
  • Can provide a nice transition between enjoying longer works.
  • May fill the story gaps in larger well-loved tales (as prequels or sequels or tell the story of secondary characters), and thus expand on a story universe.
  • Can be a great introduction to a new authors or genres. A short story usually are lower in price and take less time to read. With an anthology or boxed set you can sample a variety of authors, some you might know and love, others that are new to you. 

A well-written short story can be memorable and satisfying and stay with your for a long time.

Do you like reading short fiction? What short stories or anthologies have you enjoyed and could recommend to other readers?

Jeanette O’Hagan first spun tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fantasy, science fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories include a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance, and/or shapeshifters.
Recent publications include Akrad's Children—a Young Adult kingdom fantasy; Heart of the Mountain and Blood Crystal— the first two novellas from the Under the Mountain series; plus Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories. She has stories and poems in seventeen other anthologies, including The Quantum Soul, Tales From the Underground, Like a Woman and Futurevision.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Sign up to my Newsletter with updates, latest offers, and news http://eepurl.com/bbLJKT and receive a copy of Ruhanna’s Flight: a short story.


  1. Hi Jeanette, I love short fiction. It's one of the great benefits of the ebook revolution I reckon as it's a fabulous way as a reader to discover a new author and as an author to share fresh content with old and/or new readers at very reasonable prices.

    I particularly love series and have read a number of them, eg, Harbingers, The Eli Diaries. Both of these feature a cast of authors who write a different character's episode of a story. You get to see the POV of different characters through a story and if long enough a series a number of different characters get well developed rather than just the lead ones.

    However, one suggestion for authors who write such episodic fiction: if you want to build momentum for the series, you need to publish regular episodes. Don't publish one episode and the 6 months later the next one as there is a strong potential the readers of the 1st one have moved on. It's like a TV series - each week there is a new episode. Sure there might be a mid-season break for 6-8 weeks but that's okay as the viewers, even though frustrated by the break, have been engaged and will generally come to the series after the mid-season break.

    1. Thanks Ian. Must check out the Harbinger and Eli Diaries. Yes, agreed with series, it is good not to have too big a gap if at possible. Or maybe produce them as a boxed set once the series is finished (I plan to do that with the Under the Mountain series, and have enjoyed some popular TV series that way.) Anthologies and stand alone short stories can be enjoyed in one sitting :)