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A short story , however, is different from a narrative essay in that it does not revolve around a pre-set motif, and that it does not have a specific format. Also, a short story always leaves readers at a critical juncture with the desire to discover more. In contrast , a narrative essay ends when the readers are fully satisfied. They do not wish to read any more or do not want to discover anymore. A narrative essay has three required elements: character , theme , and dialogue.


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Characters are an important part of a narrative essay. Even if the essay is autobiographical in nature, the person writing the essay is a character involving some other characters who act, behave, and do like all other characters presented in stories and novels. A narrative essay revolves around a theme or a motif.

Difference Between a Short Story And A Narrative Essay

This theme or motif is presented in its thesis statement, which breaks it down into three distinct evidences. These three distinct evidences are then further elaborated through characters in body paragraphs. Dialogue is used to capture the conversation between characters. In a narrative essay, dialogue is the third important element, without which the characters lose their worth and liveliness.

This paragraph is an example from a narrative essay of Maya Angelou.


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She has described how a girl looks, and how she behaves. She has also written direct dialogues to show that it is a narrative. She introduced me.

He bent low from the waist and shook my hand. The form encourages economy of setting , concise narrative, and the omission of a complex plot ; character is disclosed in action and dramatic encounter but is seldom fully developed. Before the 19th century the short story was not generally regarded as a distinct literary form. But although in this sense it may seem to be a uniquely modern genre , the fact is that short prose fiction is nearly as old as language itself. Throughout history humankind has enjoyed various types of brief narratives: jests, anecdotes , studied digressions , short allegorical romances, moralizing fairy tales, short myths , and abbreviated historical legends.

Language & Lit

None of these constitutes a short story as it has been defined since the 19th century, but they do make up a large part of the milieu from which the modern short story emerged. As a genre , the short story received relatively little critical attention through the middle of the 20th century, and the most valuable studies of the form were often limited by region or era. By far the majority of criticism on the short story focused on techniques of writing.

Many, and often the best of the technical works, advise the young reader—alerting the reader to the variety of devices and tactics employed by the skilled writer. These two terms establish the polarities of the milieu out of which the modern short story grew.

Short Story vs Novel - greg hollingshead

The tale is much older than the sketch. Usually filled with cryptic and uniquely deployed motifs, personages, and symbols , tales are frequently fully understood only by members of the particular culture to which they belong. Simply, tales are intracultural. Seldom created to address an outside culture, a tale is a medium through which a culture speaks to itself and thus perpetuates its own values and stabilizes its own identity.

The old speak to the young through tales. The sketch, by contrast, is intercultural, depicting some phenomenon of one culture for the benefit or pleasure of a second culture. Factual and journalistic, in essence the sketch is generally more analytic or descriptive and less narrative or dramatic than the tale. Moreover, the sketch by nature is suggestive , incomplete; the tale is often hyperbolic , overstated.

short story

The primary mode of the sketch is written; that of the tale, spoken. This difference alone accounts for their strikingly different effects.

Elements of a Short Story

The sketch writer can have, or pretend to have, his eye on his subject. The tale, recounted at court or campfire—or at some place similarly removed in time from the event—is nearly always a re-creation of the past. The sketch writer is more an agent of space , bringing an aspect of one culture to the attention of a second. It is only a slight oversimplification to suggest that the tale was the only kind of short fiction until the 16th century, when a rising middle class interest in social realism on the one hand and in exotic lands on the other put a premium on sketches of subcultures and foreign regions.

Each writer worked in his own way, but the general effect was to mitigate some of the fantasy and stultifying conventionality of the tale and, at the same time, to liberate the sketch from its bondage to strict factuality.