Page:How to write a Short Story.djvu/50

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How to Write a Short Story
 

with that number. It is an incident by itself, isolated from the other happenings of everyday life.

It may be any length, provided it is not too ungainly to crowd between the covers of a magazine, or too tiny to demand a place at all. Generally speaking, a short story should run between 1,000 and 6,000 words.

Length, of course, is largely a matter of demand rather than of choice. You can't tell some stories in less than 5,000 words without condensing them so sharply as to destroy utterly their charm, and you can't stretch others above 1,500 words without padding them unduly. As in all other things, the ones that do not come close to either extreme are most apt to prove acceptable.

Whatever the length, the ideal short story is one complete chapter. Above all else, it is a unit; and any plot that necessitates chapter divisions is faulty and had better be discarded.

Many of the stories that are sliced up in this fashion by beginners, however, really possess unity. The divisions are