Posts Tagged ‘the short story’

The Short Story by R J Dent

March 22, 2009


A brief look at the history of the short story

Traditionally, the short story is a fictional prose tale of non-specified length, although a story of more than 20,000 words is usually considered to be a novella, a novelette or a short novel. The short story is generally too short to be published as a volume on its own, as in the case of the novel or the play. Dramatically, the short story usually concentrates on a single event involving only one or two characters. Here then, is a brief history of the beginnings of the short story as a recognized literary form.

The world’s oldest extant short story is Chabuki Yun’s Hop Ten Yato, usually translated as Green Tea. This 5000 word Chinese folk story is believed to have been written by Chabuki in 1100BC. Green Tea concerns itself with the meetings which take place between a princess and a Genji. The steam of the green tea of the title is the medium by which the Genji visits the princess and informs her of other-worldly realms. The princess grows weary of her day-to-day existence and of her Earth-bound form and decides to leave them behind.

“There is still so much to be done. Things cannot continue as they are for much longer. This world of ours must change!” Princess Hitami paused, and then announced: “No! We must change!” Read more…


R J Dent says: ‘The Short Story is an experiment. It’s an essay about the short story that just happens to be a short story; it’s a fiction in the form of an essay (a fictional essay), or it’s a non-fiction short story. It’s a hybrid form of writing – part essay/part short story. I wanted to push fiction to its limit, to lower the threshold to the floor in terms of what can be done with the short story form. My initial idea was to write a history of the short story – and to make the whole thing fictional, with the appearance of it being factual – which is why I used the essay form as the mode of presentation. Readers generally accept the essay – the most fictional form of writing – as the most factual; the most truthful; the most non-fictional. I thought I’d use that acceptance to tell a story.’


Follow R J Dent’s work on: